Q: Are you looking for biographical information about individuals?
- PROV does not collect the private papers of individuals. It houses public records as defined in the Public Records Act 1973. These are the records created by the various organisations (known as agencies) that comprise the Colonial and State Government of Victoria.
- To locate private papers about individuals, try the manuscript collections of the State Library of Victoria, the University of Melbourne Archives, or the National Library of Australia, and check the Australian Women's Archives Project Register.
- If the person was born, died or lived in Victoria, you may find useful information within a variety of public record series held by PROV including wills, probate files, inquest files, asylum records, shipping lists and criminal trial briefs.
For further information on these and other public record series that contain information about individuals, consult the PROV publication Private Lives, Public Records: Family History Resources at Public Record Office Victoria.
A range of research guides, known as PROVguides, have been produced for a number of these series and can be accessed on the PROV website; some of these guides contain links to imaged copies of key series.
There are also a number of online exhibitions that can be accessed on the PROV website. Two of these in particular - Lucy: A Private Life Revealed Through Public Records and Bigamy, Theft and Murder. The Extraordinary Tale of Frederick Bailey Deeming - demonstrate how stories about individuals can be constructed using records found within public record series.
Q: Do you want to track the activities or opinions of individuals who interacted with Victorian government (colonial and state) agencies?
- PROV holds series of correspondence files created by a number of major Victorian government agencies including many of the major departments and statutory authorities. Files in these series document a range of activities including policy development, administrative procedures and the agency's interaction with individuals, private organisations and Victorian/other governments. For many of these series, PROV also holds the control records (typically known as indexes and registers) created by the same agency. These records manage the registration (numbering), arrangement, indexing and movement of the files.
- In most cases researchers must first use these indexes and registers to establish whether the government agency received letters from private persons and, more importantly, what that agency did with those letters. (For example, a letter may have been referred to another government agency for action.) Also, it should be kept in mind that many historically important women may have written to government agencies in their capacity as head of an organisation, such as the president of a committee, and would be identified as such. Letters can also be identified as having being received from a non-government organisation rather than an individual.
- NOTE: These indexes and registers were created by government agencies and reflect the recordkeeping practices of the time. Be aware that these may vary in arrangement over time and from agency to agency. You will need to be both consistent and creative in your approach to checking the indexes and registers. You should also be aware that trained staff are on hand in the PROV Reading Room to guide you through these records.