Organisations in each state and territory can help with your Indigenous family history research. There are also a number of national organisations and non-government websites that support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history.
- Libraries hold a range of material that is useful for family history, including books, indexes and original manuscripts. Many larger libraries have special family history librarians who can help you with your research. Some libraries have online research guides to help you understand their collections.
- Archives hold original records, created by government agencies, private organisations or individuals. Archives are different from libraries, and you will need help from an archivist to locate and access records.
- Indigenous family history services are provided by state and territory governments to assist you in accessing records and personal information about your and your ancestors held in government archives.
- Link-Up organisations provide services to members of the Stolen Generations, their families, and foster and adoptive families. These include researching family and personal records, finding family members and support and counselling.
- Organisations for adoptees and care leavers (and their families) can help you find information about your personal and family history and connect you with family. They also provide counselling and support services.
- Family history community projects and organisations offer practical help in researching your family history. Some are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander focused. They may have library collections, computers, online resources and provide training courses and workshops.
Before you contact them
Try to collect and organise as much information as you can before approaching organisations for help. They will need names, dates and places in order to help you with your research.
See Family history sources for more information about the kind of information you will find.
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
The AIATSIS Family History Unit can help people researching their Indigenous family history. The AIATSIS Finding Your Family website is an online resource with a focus on helping people to learn how to do Indigenous family history research. AIATSIS offers an Australia-wide service. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Biographical Index enables you to do an online name search of some of the material in the collection. AIATSIS cannot compile family trees or help you to confirm Aboriginality.
51 Lawson Crescent, Acton ACT 2601
GPO Box 553, Canberra ACT 2601
Ph: 02 6246 1111
Freecall: 1 800 352 553
Fax: 02 6261 4285
ArchivesACT provides access to ACT government records, including records about divorce, child welfare, cemeteries, schools and housing. Access to records is by appointment only, so you need to contact the archives first. Records relating to the area that is now the ACT are also held by State Records NSW and by the National Archives of Australia.
Office of Regulatory Services – Births, Deaths and Marriages
The Office of Regulatory Services manages the registration of births, deaths, marriages, changes of name, changes of sex and adoptions in the ACT. You can apply for copies of records for family history purposes and ask them to search their index for you. The cost of BDM records varies from state to state but is normally $30 to $50 per certificate.
Note: records prior to 1930 were registered in the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
255 Canberra Avenue, Fyshwick ACT 2609
PO Box 158, Canberra City 2601
Ph: 02 6207 3000
ACT Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs
The ACT Government undertook an extensive genealogy project with the ACT Aboriginal community to compile a comprehensive genealogical database. The database documents more than 5000 individuals and includes a collection of some 2000 primary source records.
Level 8, 11 Moore Street, Canberra ACT 2601
Ph: 02 6207 9784
Guide: www.communityservices.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/394385/CSD_GSR_web.pdf (Our Kin Our Country)
Find & Connect Support Service ACT
Find & Connect supports people who grew up in orphanages, children’s homes, institutions and foster homes. Find & Connect can help you obtain your personal records, trace your history and understand why you were placed into care, as well as providing counselling and other services.
15 Napier Close, Deakin ACT 2600
Free call: 1800 16 11 09
Ph: 02 6122 7100
Post Adoption Resource Centre – Benevolent Society
The Benevolent Society’s Post Adoption Resource Centre provides information, counselling and support to people affected by adoption in New South Wales and the ACT.
Suite 253, Level 5, 7-11 The Avenue, Hurstville NSW 1481
Ph: 02 9504 6788
ACT Heritage Library
The ACT Heritage Library collects, preserves, promotes and provides access to documents that record the lives of Canberrans. It has resources on the history of Aboriginal people of the ACT as well as general family history material.
Level 1, Woden Library, Corner Corinna and Furzer Streets, Phillip ACT 2606
GPO Box 158, Canberra City ACT 2601
Ph: 02 6207 5163
Canberra and District Historical Society Inc.
The Canberra and District Historical Society encourages the study of the history of Canberra and district. It holds activities such as lectures and excursions, provides research services and maintains a resource centre with books, periodicals, maps, photographs and extensive and unique files of newspaper cuttings.
National Library of Australia
The National Library collects and makes available material of national significance about Australia and Australians. It holds books, manuscripts, newspapers, photographs and oral histories that could be useful in researching your family – much of this is available online through Trove. The library has a family history collection and staff you can help you to locate material.
Parkes Place, Canberra ACT 2600
Ph: 02 6262 1111
Fax: 02 6257 1703
Ask a Librarian (online contact form): www.nla.gov.au/askalibrarian
Australian War Memorial
Indigenous people have served in every military conflict that Australia has been involved in since the Boer War (1899-1902). Military records are a rich source of information about the men and women who served in the armed forces, and sometimes their family members.
Treloar Crescent, Campbell ACT 2612
Ph: 02 6243 4211
Fax: 02 6243 4325
www.awm.gov.au/people/profiles/#indigenousservice (profiles of Indigenous service people)
Research guides for Indigenous family history
Research guides provide comprehensive information for people doing family history research. They often include an outline of the history of colonisation and Aboriginal protection/welfare legislation, linking these to the records that were created about Indigenous people.
Books published by AIATSIS
- Penny Taylor, Telling it like it is: A guide to making Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, AIATSIS, 1992
- Diane Smith and Boronia Halstead, Lookin for your mob: A guide to tracing Aboriginal family trees, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1990.
- Our Kin Our Country (ACT Aboriginal Genealogy Project)
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – National Archives of Australia: www.naa.gov.au/collection/a-z/aboriginal-people.aspx
- Centre for Indigenous Family History Studies (CIFHS) – a name searchable archive of some government documents relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The site is updated with new records continuously. Some of the documents contain offensive language. www.cifhs.com
General family history resources
Local family history groups, local history societies and local libraries are valuable sources of information and resources. They can put you in contact with people with a good knowledge of the local history of a town or area that you are interested in. Many also have local studies collections with books, newspapers, family histories, photographs and manuscripts.
The Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra Inc.
HAGSOC helps people trace their family history, providing genealogy advice and running regular workshops, seminars and talks. It has an excellent family history library and is a great place to start if you are new to family history research.
Find local libraries
You can use Australian Libraries Gateway – Find a Library to locate libraries in Victoria with family history and local history collections. Under location select ‘VIC’ and under library type select ‘Local/Family history’. You can also browse using the map.
Family history research websites
- CoraWeb: a comprehensive, categorised and cross-referenced list of links and useful advice about tracing your family history (Australia)
- Ancestry – Help & Advice: general family history advice, as well as information about using Ancestry’s paid services (Australia)
- Cyndi’s List: a comprehensive, categorised and cross-referenced list of links that point you to genealogical research sites online (USA)
- FamilySearch Learning Center: articles and short online courses put together by the largest genealogical organisation in the world (USA)
Find family history and historical societies
- CoraWeb – Genealogy, Family History and Historical Societies: www.coraweb.com.au/categories/family-history-and-historical-societies
- Cape Banks Family History Society – Australian Family History Societies: www.capebanks.org.au/australian-family-history-societies/
Society of Australian Genealogists
The Society of Australian Genealogists helps people trace their family history, providing genealogy advice and running workshops and lectures. It has an excellent family history library and a manuscript collection in central Sydney.