Edward "Ned" Kelly
Public Record Office Victoria holds arguably the world’s largest collection of original manuscript documentation about Australia’s most notorious bushranger, Edward “Ned” Kelly.
All of the records held by PROV were created or received by the various Government bodies (known as agencies) involved in the pursuit, identification, capture, imprisonment, prosecution, sentencing and execution of Kelly and his gang. Records were also created or received by many bodies in the period after his death.
Additionally, a range of other series in the PROV Collection can be used to assist in developing a Kelly family tree or about other key players in the Kelly story.
Broadly speaking, records about Kelly are found within two components of the PROV collection. These are:
- the Kelly Historical Collection, and
- embedded within the original recordkeeping systems of the agencies which had a role in the story.
The Kelly Historical Collection
This Collection consists of 5 series (ie archival groupings) of records. It is important to understand that these series do not appear to have been created as part of a deliberate programme by PROV to extract Kelly related records from the series within which these were originally maintained. In fact, almost every document in this collection was transferred into archival custody in the decades prior to the establishment of PROV in April 1973 by its predecessor, the Archives Division of the State Library. Generally speaking each series appears to have its origins in a separate accession of records received at different times by the Archives Division.
The entire Collection was microfilmed as VPRS 6888 and can be accessed in the PROV Reading Rooms. Most of the Collection has also been digitised and can be accessed via the PROV website. Select documents with transcriptions can also be located on the PROV website via the online exhibition Ned Online. The original documents are not available for public inspection as a preservation measure.
The series which make up the Kelly Historical Collection are:
- VPRS 4965: Kelly Historical Collection - Part 1 Police Branch. This consists of documentation such as police reports, memoranda, instructions or other documents made or received by the Victoria Police.
- VPRS 4966: Kelly Historical Collection - Part 2 Crown Law Department. This series consists largely of the criminal trial briefs that were prepared for the trial of Ned Kelly, the capital case file created after the trial and a portion of the petition organised by David Gaunson. A trial brief for the prosecution of Ellen Kelly, William Williamson and Thomas Skillion is also included.
- VPRS 4967: Kelly Historical Collection - Part 3 Chief Secretary's Office. This series contains some files relating to Kelly matters originally maintained within the correspondence filing system of the Chief Secretary.
- VPRS 4968: Kelly Historical Collection - Part 4 Kelly Reward Board. This series contains correspondence, claim files, supporting documentation and Board Minutes for the Reward Board.
- VPRS 4969: Kelly Historical Collection - Part 5 Miscellaneous Records. This series includes documentation relating to the Kelly prosecution, the Reward Board and the subsequent Royal Commission among others. It also contains documentation relating to the bushranger Captain Moonlite.
The documents in each series are ordered in a sequence that was imposed largely by the Archives Division. (This order is maintained in both the microfilm copy and online.) Despite this, problems are apparent with some of the records. It is reasonably clear that some files have been split into more than one part and that others have been misfiled into the incorrect series. Postings altering us to any problems that may be apparent are welcomed.
Records in the PROV Collection that are not maintained within the Kelly Historical Collection
The Kelly Historical Collection series are unusual in that their contents had been separated from the original record keeping system in which the records were originally managed by the agencies that had received or created them.
All other records about Kelly in the PROV Collection are to be located within these various record keeping systems and need to be found utilising the various series that make up the record keeping system (such as indexes and registers) in conjunction with PROVs listings. Just some of these systems include:
- correspondence files of the Law Department (refer to VPRS 266). With the exception of the Kelly capital case file, none of the files from VPRS 266 are contained in the Kelly Historical Collection.
- correspondence files of the Chief Secretary’s Department. Some files from these series are held within the Kelly Historical Collection, mostly in VPRS 4967. Other files are still maintained within the Chief Secretary’s main filing system - refer to VPRS 3991 and VPRS 3392.
- correspondence files of the Victoria Police. Significant quantities of records from VPRS 937 are held in the Kelly Historical Collection, mostly in VPRS 4965. Some items can still be tracked down within VPRS 937.
It should be additionally noted that the Kelly Historical Collection contains exclusively file based documents. Anything in the PROV Collection about Kelly that is recorded in a volume will be found elsewhere within the PROV Collection within the relevant series housing that volume. For example, the various deliberations by the Executive Council about implementing the Kelly death sentence are recorded within VPRS 1080 Minutes of the Executive Council
Postings on any series in the PROV Collection containing Kelly records are welcomed.
Themes apparent within the records
Postings are welcome on any aspect of the Kelly saga as revealed through the records held by PROV. Some examples include:
- the events at Stringybark Creek and Glenrowan
- the subsequent Victorian Police campaign to identify and capture Kelly and his gang
- unsolicited offers from private individuals to assist in the hunt for Kelly
- the role of Aboriginal trackers from Queensland in the hunt for Kelly
- reported sightings of Kelly and gang members in the period between Stringybark Creek and the last stand at Glenrowan
- the capture of Kelly at Glenrowan
- the legal prosecution of Kelly
- the use and creation of a copy of the Jerilderie letter
- Kelly’s incarceration pending trial and execution
- review of the death sentence by the Governor/Executive Council
- Kelly’s execution
- the work of the Kelly Reward Board in distributing the reward moneys
- the work of the Royal Commission into the Kelly Outbreak
- the fate of the Kelly armour
- individuals involved in or connected to the various events such as family members, gang members, Police officers, etc
- the Kelly family tree
- Ned Kelly, an online exhibition of transcripts and scans of documents held by Public Record Office Victoria relating to Ned Kelly
- The Black or Unfair Image: The Babington Letter as a Sonnet. An article in the 'Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature', Vol 8 (2008) (JASAL 8) in which the letter written in 1870 by 15 year old Ned Kelly to Victoria Police Seargent Babington is interpreted as a sonnet .
Edward "Ned" Kelly has been tagged on these pages:
- Burrows, William
- Edward "Ned" Kelly
- Ellen Kelly â€“ Recognizance of Bail
- Jerilderie Letter
- Ned Kelly Trial: Capital Case File and report to the Governor.
- Ned Kelly to Sergeant Babington
- Redmond Barry
- Robert Rede
- Volunteering at PROV