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Biographical resources for building your family tree

By Administrator | 28 August 2015

So, you've celebrated National Family History Month by beginning to search the Birth, Death and Marriage indexes and you have basic information for your family tree, but would you like to know more about what your ancestors’ lives were like? Biographical resources can provide historical information about a person’s life – where they lived, who else lived at the address, what they did for a living, and how many children they had.

Funeral notices, death notices, and obituaries, found in newspapers, can give you your relatives’ names, places where a person lived and died, and a history of their life. Funeral notices can be a good way to find a daughter’s married name, as they list family members.  Newspapers can also contain birth announcements, wedding photographs, sporting results, or news of a family moving to or from a town or district. Regional newspapers were the Facebook of the day, containing social news and gossip in a much more personal manner than can be found in today’s newspapers.

Electoral rolls can provide valuable information including a residential address; early electoral rolls included occupations. Some rolls contain information about land holdings as men had to be wealthy to vote, and not everyone was entitled to vote. By cross-referencing surnames, you can locate other family members living at the same address.

Once you have discovered your ancestor’s occupation, there are many resources that can provide more details. State Library of Queensland's resources include information on various occupations, including publicans, railway employees, teachers, policemen, miners, members of parliament and public servants.  Your ancestor may have been called before a parliamentary committee if they were an expert in a topic that was being discussed.  Farmers, graziers, seamen, miners, labourers and railway employees were among those called before these committees.

Blue Books, some contained within the Legislative Assembly Votes & Proceedings, were published annually until the early 20th century and list many civil (public) servants. They contain names, positions and departments, salary, date of appointment in the public service and the current position.  It is possible to follow the career of a teacher from first appointment to retirement as a head master using these resources.

Curd, Edward James, Head Teacher at Warwick West (Boys) State School in 1894, from the Votes & Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, Volume 2, 1895.

Curd, Edward James, Head Teacher at Warwick West (Boys) State School in 1894, from the Votes & Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, Volume 2, 1895.

The more badly behaved your ancestors were, the more information that can be found about them!  From convict records through to Police Gazettes and newspaper articles, information and reports of criminal activity are readily available. Police Gazettes can contain information about crimes and criminals; appointments, promotions and resignations in the police force; inquests and reports on missing friends and relatives. This can be a good resource if you really have ‘lost’ someone.

Further information on any of these family history resources can be found on the SLQ website by following this link: /resources/family-history

Happy researching.

Katy Roberts, Library Technician, Visitor Services.


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