Identity area

Reference code

AU WA S2059




  • 1926-01-01 - 1995-12-31 (Creation)

Level of description






Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

A Court of Quarter Sessions was established in Western Australia in 1830 and a Civil Court established two years later. However, as the colony grew and as society became more complex, the judiciary became overtaxed. In the 1850s the equity jurisdiction of the Civil Court was challenged while the courts' jurisdiction in criminal matters was questioned. For these and other reasons, the Supreme Court Ordinance of 1861 was introduced.

The Supreme Court Ordinance (proclaimed on 18 June 1861) provided for a Supreme Court which had the same criminal, common law, and equity jurisdiction as the Courts of Westminister. The Ordinance amalgamated the Court of Quarter Sessions with the Supreme Court and transferred to it a number of functions of the Civil Court. For example, the Supreme Court was empowered to grant probates and letters of administration and given jurisdiction in bankruptcy matters. After 1863, the Supreme Court was also given jurisdiction in matrimonial causes (i.e. divorces).

Under the Ordinance, the officers of the Supreme Court were to be the Chief Justice (Archibald Paull Burt), an Attorney-General, a Master, and a Registrar.

In 1880 a new Supreme Court Act was introduced. The Act which came into force on 1 August 1881, clarified the Court's jurisidiction in admiralty matters and empowered the Chief Justice to make Rules for the conduct of the Court. Provision was also made for the appointment of one or more puisne judges and for the Chief Justice and other judges to sit as a Full Court. Initially, the Full Court could only entertain motions for retrials and pronounce on points of law, but after 1886 it was given the status of a Court of Appeal.

The first sitting of the Supreme Court was held on 3 July 1861 and for the first few years it occupied premises in the Police Court and Gaol Building in Beaufort Street, Perth. In 1863 it moved to the old (1836) Court House in Stirling Gardens and in 1880 moved again to the old (1835) Commissariat Store at the foot of Barrack Street. Despite alterations the Commissariat building was inadequate and in the 1890's work began on a new, purposely-designed courthouse. The new building, completed in 1903, is still the principal seat of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Archival history

Content and structure area

Scope and content

This series consists of microfilm copies of selected documents from the Probate files. The documents were filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) as part of their microfilming program. The documents were selected by the GSU in conjunction with the Supreme Court. From each probate file, 3 documents were filmed where possible: the will, affidavit and death certificate. The following exceptions apply:

  • Some files do not have all 3 documents and cards were filmed stating what was not there;

  • Many types of affidavits occur on the files, but the one selected for filming was the Oath or Affidavit of the Executor. Where this was not found, the Affidavit of Attesting Witness was filmed if available.

  • 'Resealed' files occur for people who died outside Western Australia. These files may contain only the will. In these cases other documents were filmed where it was felt they would provide much the same information eg Power of Attorney;

  • Other exceptions include 'Abandoned' files. Target cards indicate where an exception occurs.

Full and complete probate files are registered under Record Series No. 34, although the State Records Office only holds the complete probate files up to and including 1947 (complete probate files after 1947 are still held by the Probate Office, Perth).


System of arrangement


Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Restricted 75 years

Conditions governing access (legacy)

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Related units of description

Authorized form of name


Category of relationship


Description of relationship

Dates of relationship



Category of relationship


Description of relationship

Dates of relationship


Related units of description

Access points

Place access points

Description control area

Level of detail




Archivist's note

Range Control Symbol = 1 -

All files between 1832 - 1925 were microfilmed and are held at the located at Consignment 3403. Lists have been provided by the GSU microfilm operators of files where extra certificates were microfilmed giving the Name, File Number, Date and extra certificate. These lists are located in the Supreme Court File J6/1 Volume 2.

Microfilming:- Reels 1 -1028 Contain Probate Files filmed mostly in numerical order (some files were missing and some sections were filmed out of order. Missing files (1968-1995) have been filmed at end of sequence reels 1029 & 1030
Copies: Microfilm is available in the State Records Office of Western Australia

Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related places