Public holiday: the Library will be open on 3 October. View opening hours

Before the courts on Trove

Judge Neild

Portrait of Judge John Roscoe Nield, Home and Away - 4692

Trove gives you access to thousands of articles and official notices regarding Australians before the courts.

Newspapers can often act as informal indexes for Government records as matters before the Bankruptcy, Divorce and Coroner’s Courts were regularly published in newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald.  Once you have those details you can then ask State Archives & Records NSW if they have the case file.

Involvency and Bankruptcy

Sir Henry Parkes faced insolvency in the courts three times in his life, as a public figure there are not only court notices and full judgements, but a dissection of his business acumen. The Melbourne papers were sure it displayed an unsavoury aspect of public opinion in the ‘happy land’ of NSW:   

“Public opinion in that happy land appears to favour the notion that the more utterly bankrupt in fortunes a man is the more presentable he becomes as a politician. Mr. Henry Parkes, for the second time within the last half dozen of years or so, has become insolvent.”


For 18th century inquests, newspapers help fill the gap as all that survives for many years are the indexes and registers. Reports ranged from one paragraph to a detailed recounting of the proceedings.

Inquests were often held in a local hotel such as the Post Office Hotel in York Street. On the 23rd August 1870 the City Coroner held an inquest there into the strychnine assisted suicide of a Mr John Ross. The article contains a detailed account of the witness's depositions on Trove.


Prior to the Family Law Act 1975 and no fault divorce, married couples could only get divorced if one was found to be at fault. Adultery, cruelty and desertion and were the three main reasons listed for divorces during this time period. Husband and wife sometimes colluded and one would ‘admit’ to committing one of these sins so they would be able to divorce.

Due to newspaper reports the intimate details of a divorce were often as was the case of  the divorce of William Tully a Bathurst shearer and his wife Hope Louisa Tully. An affair is alledged to have occured between Mrs Tully and a neighbour, Mr Clement McDonald. Witnesses were called to give evidence,

"A witness for the petitioner told the court that Mrs Tully had openly stated her intention of living with the correspondent and in fact, he had seen the respondent at McDonald’s home on frequent occasions"

The case papers for this divorce can also be ordered online through State Archives and Records NSW.