Record types in 19th and 20th century


  • The collection guides contain references to records that date back up to 150 years. The types of records created by government departments at that time, such as bound volumes and other paper documents, all pre-date today’s computerised systems.

The types of 19th and 20th century records represented in the collection guides

This glossary explains each record type, its function, and how it was used in conjunction with other records to represent a particular part of the administration. An example of this would be the old file registry with its paper files, file registers and indexes.

The major types of records include:

Hard bound indexes: 

Hard-bound volumes with A to Z sections that organise entries appearing in related registers or collections of files. For example, the file subjects listed alphabetically or alphabetically-ordered surnames of people whose documents are contained in those files.


Hard-bound volumes that recorded the details of single documents placed on file, or titles of entire files, or identifying numbers for files. Registers were also used to record and control information on the location and movement of people within a facility. Register entries were usually compiled sequentially, in chronological order.

For example:

  • file correspondence registers documented each letter, and placed identifying numbers on incoming and outgoing correspondence
  • patient or client registers recorded the personal details of each person admitted to out-of-home care, short-term care, in-patient treatment, day clinic or out-patient facilities
  • admission and discharge registers recorded the case and personal details of people entering or leaving a government institution. 

Case histories and administrative files: 

Files are records that compile documents that confirm an organisation’s business activities. There are several of these file types referred to in the guides.

For example:

  • a case history file created for adult or child ‘clients’ of the department, who were placed in the department’s custody (people who resided in out-of-home care such as young people on child protection or supervision orders, child migrants brought to Victoria, babies adopted out or placed in foster and permanent care arrangements). Case history files were also created for patients admitted (voluntarily or involuntarily) to in-patient facilities, out-patient facilities and day clinics.
  • employee files are the central record of each government employee, documenting their tenure, positions held, promotions, salary and personal details.
  • subject files were created by administrative officers to document and store information on subjects in a centralised location and were incorporated into a filing system.
  • computerised client management filing systems currently used by all functional areas of the department. The files hold information on children and adults who were case managed by departmental staff involved in program and business activities.

Card indexes: 

A set of cards, usually with A to Z sections, that organises registered file references alphabetically by subject, or by surname of person whose documents are within that file.

Reviewed 02 September 2016

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