Find your ancestors in Victoria Petty Sessions Registers

What can these records tell me?

The Court of Petty Sessions was created to hear minor criminal cases such as those involving drunkenness and theft. These cases, brought before a magistrate, would usually not involve a jury.

Each result will provide you with a transcript and an image of the original court register. The original records are kept at Public Records Office Victoria in North Melbourne, Australia. The registers for the years 1854 to 1985 are included in this collection, totaling more than three million records.

Transcripts of records from the Court of Petty Sessions may include the following information:

  • First name(s)
  • Last name
  • Year
  • Event date
  • Role (plaintiff, defendant, etc.)
  • Cause or reason
  • Court
  • Description
  • Sessions date
  • Archive reference
  • State

Images may provide additional details such as

  • How an individual was brought before the court – arrest on view, warrant, or summons
  • Fees
  • Decision, memo of conviction, or order
  • Remarks

The details found in such documents may hint at further insight into your ancestor regarding rank, status, property ownership, or occupation.

Discover more about these records

Dating back to colonial days, the Court of Petty Sessions first convened in 1838 in Melbourne. Such courts were additionally spread across Victoria; by 1880, there were 235 locations. There were usually two or more Justices of the Peace needed for a Court of Petty Sessions.

Minor criminal matters and committal proceedings were brought before the court. Complaints regarding money were originally limited to sums not exceeding £20. Today, the Magistrates’ Court addresses issues that would have been brought before the Court of Petty Sessions.