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John Oxley Library

Tindale Genealogical Collection 1928-1960: a treasure of the John Oxley Library

By Tania Schafer and Troy Keith, Queensland Memory | 1 November 2021

The Tindale Genealogical Collection is a key research tool Australian Aboriginal people can access to discover evidence of their family lineage and connection with community. 

In 1938 Norman Tindale, an anthropologist and entomologist with the South Australian Museum, began visiting Aboriginal people living on government missions in Queensland. By the end of the 1960s Tindale had photographed Aboriginal people, collected cultural material, and recorded a significant number of genealogies in hand-written field notes, usually with one extended family included on each chart.

Aboriginal people are advised the genealogies do contain some inaccuracies due to the limited time Tindale had to cross check the information he obtained. Tindale's full collection is held by the South Australian Museum but family history material relating to Queensland Aboriginals is held by the State Library of Queensland. 

Annie Sibley, Palm Island, 7 November 1938, Tindale Genealogical Collection

Annie Sibley, nee Ah Sam, born 1897 from Palm Island community. Norman Tindale Collection, negative 1128, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Michael Aird Co-Curator of the Transforming Tindale exhibition at the State Library of Queensland, 2012. The exhibition was an acknowledgement of this untold story for Aboriginal people in Queensland.

Michael Aird Co-Curator of the Transforming Tindale exhibition at the State Library of Queensland, 2012. The exhibition was an acknowledgement of this untold story for Aboriginal people in Queensland.  State Library of Queensland.

In the late 1980s State Library of Queensland obtained copies of the genealogy sheets and named photographic portraits for the Queensland Aboriginal communities of Yarrabah, Cherbourg, Mona Mona, Palm Island, and Woorabinda, as well as two northern New South Wales communities at Boggabilla and Woodenbong.  In 2001 Bentinck Island, Doomadgee and Mornington Island genealogies and photographs were added to the collection.

An Alphabetical Name Index of Aboriginal people featured in the genealogies and photographs is available on the library's catalogue One Search. The index includes people’s names and the community where they lived. Some transcription sheets are available on request. 

Due to the sensitive and private nature of the information contained in the genealogies, access conditions apply. The index and transcriptions were created by State Library staff members Tania Schafer and Loris Williams.

The Tindale Collection is a unique and significant resource providing evidence for Native Title claims and assisting thousands of Aboriginal people to trace their family connections, particularly in areas where traditional knowledge has been lost. 

The Norman Barnett Tindale Collection at the South Australian Museum is part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Australian Register.

Commitment statement

This blog contains Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander content, which has been made available in accordance with State Library of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collections Commitments.

Collection: 7489 Tindale Genealogical Collection 1928-1960

Related collections held in the John Oxley Library:

  1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections
  2. 7676 Pastor Roennfeldt Slides, Photographs and Videocassettes 1880s-ca.1958
  3. 32564 Adolescent Wonderland photographic artworks.
  4. R 323 Weipa Mission Records 1931-1970
  5. OM72-115 Thomas Illidge Papers ca. 1816-1927
  6. OH 55 Bloomfield River Oral History Project and photographs 1995



Read about other treasure collections held in the John Oxley Library

  1. Margaret Lawrie Collection of Torres Strait Islands
  2. Johnstone Gallery Archive
  3. Archibald Meston Papers
  4. Mary Watson diaries
  5. Central Queensland Separation League Petition
  6. (I’m) Stranded : No Time, The Saints
  7. Real estate maps collection
  8. Portrait of an Australian Artists' Book
  9. John Watts Necklace
  10. Stable collection 1917 - 1991
  11. Tony Fitzgerald Collection 1984 - 2009
  12. Charles Seymour Papers 1880-192
  13. Dr Barbara Piscitelli AM Children’s Art Archive 1990-2020
  14. Bennett Family Films 1956 – 1988
  15. The Ron and Ngaire Gale Photographic Collection
  16. Storylines Q150 digital stories


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