City of Sydney employees (1842–1900)

City of Sydney employees (1842–1900)

19th century civic workers

From Council's inception in 1842 until around 1900, no complete set of employee records was maintained. A research project found only 2 documents listing the names of all Council employees at a particular time. One names 666 employees from February 1895 and the other names 658 employees from January 1898.

During the 20th century, staff records cards were used which were later replaced with the human resources systems we are familiar with today. 

The first phase of the research project involved extensive searches of records available online to create a list of employees from the 19th century. Some of the names were recorded in our volunteer researcher's private research material.

The resulting spreadsheet, Employees City of Sydney 1842–1900, contains some 15,000 entries covering:

  • year
  • surname
  • first name
  • position
  • salary
  • notes
  • source reference number
  • further notes.

Some of the fields are incomplete. In the cases of the most prominent employees, such as Treasurer, Town Clerk, City Surveyor and others frequently mentioned, not all references have been collected.

Some employees, on the other hand, are known only by a single reference that may contain little information.

Detailed report

In the second phase of the project, the spreadsheet information was studied to clarify the identity of employees, positions held and their duration, and any other unusual information.

The information for each person identified was transferred to a new document to create a detailed report. There are a number of persons with the same name and many persons were recorded only by surname, or surname and initial, making it difficult to conclusively identify them.

For example, there are many persons with surnames Murphy or Brown/Browne. Where documents have been digitised, it has been possible to scrutinise employees' signatures to establish identity and the correct spelling of their name. 

Persons’ names can be spelt in different ways by the person their self or by third parties, or a name may have been misread. If it can be determined that references with different spellings of a person’s name do refer to 1 person only, then those references are collected together. But in many cases this cannot be done and there are cross references to the other spellings. For example, there are many variants used for the names Callaghan, Reardon or Malone/Maloney.

Further information in some cases has been obtained from other sources such as newspapers (through Trove at the National Library of Australia), birth, death and marriage registration indexes from the NSW Registry, the Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, directories of Sydney in the 19th century and the publication Sydney, by City Historian Shirley Fitzgerald.

Summary report 

In the final phase, an alphabetical list was created by condensing the material from the detailed report.

The summary report contains the names of over 5,000 persons who worked for Council and, where it can be determined, their position or the nature of their employment, the start date or duration of their employment.

Occasionally there is a further note about their relationship to other employees or Aldermen, or a matter of significance in their career or subsequent career.


The research project undertaken by City Archives volunteer Marilyn Mason, has resulted in an invaluable resource being created for researchers and historians. Marilyn spent thousands of hours in her own time creating the database and reports and has made it available to the City to publish free of charge. Her meticulous approach and high quality research is reflected in the accuracy and accessibility of the end product. The City of Sydney expresses its gratitude to Marilyn for her tireless efforts.

Main image: Council employee picnic in bushland. Courtesy City of Sydney Archives (045/045655)

Last updated: Tuesday, 1 March 2016