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Side view of two rows of First Nations children sitting in a classroom with two men standing at the back at the end of the rows.
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Getting started

As you start your First Nations family history research consider what you want to learn. Understand how to organise what material you already have and what steps to take to discover more. Find out where you can search for further information.

Video guide

First steps to starting your family history

Work out why you want to know more about your mob, and what you want to find out. 

Are you:

  • wanting to know more about where your family comes from?
  • looking to create a family tree?
  • searching for a specific family member?
  • writing your life story or that of a parent?
  • looking for connection to community, culture and country?

Having a clear idea of what information you are looking for, and why, can help you decide on the best way to find the information.

Use a family tree chart to organise your research

  • Record everything you know, and have found out, on family tree charts and/or worksheets (See ‘Hints and tips’ below to find examples). 
  • Record the information as it appears on the records or as it has been recorded through family stories. This will keep track of different spellings of names.
Black and white image of an Aboriginal man sitting holding a child an a woman standing in front of a building in North Queensland, ca.1920

Woman standing and a man holds a child in front of building, North Queensland, ca. 1920, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg. no. 12887

Trace back through your family from yourself

Work back through your family starting with your full birth certificate.

This provides you with information about your parents, including:

  • your father's full name, place of birth and occupation at the time
  • your mother's maiden name, age and place of birth
  • when and where your parents married.

With this information, you can get a copy of your parents' marriage certificate. This will include:

  • your parents' full names, ages and birthplaces
  • grandfathers' names and occupations
  • grandmothers' maiden names.

Then obtain and record the information from your parents' birth certificates. Continue working backwards using available certificates to find more information.

Death certificates may also provide valuable information:

  • father's name and occupation
  • mother's maiden name and occupation
  • deceased person's birthplace
  • when the person arrived in Australia from overseas, number of years in the colony and in which Australian colonies.
Black and white image of two women standing in front of a building, with a child standing in front of them, ca. 1905

Women and child at Barambah Aboriginal Settlement, ca. 1905, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg. no. 112311

What other information may exist about your family?

Once you have exhausted birth, death, and marriage records, look at other resources such as station/mission records, newspapers, and photographs.

Many references to First Nations peoples are contained in records created by other Queensland Government departments as well as non-government agencies. For example, you may find references to your relatives in:

  • Church and mission records
  • Defence force records
  • Police records
  • Pastoral station records
  • Tindale Collection of Aboriginal genealogies created in the 1930s
  • Margaret Lawrie Collection of Torres Strait Islander genealogies

Hints and tips

Who's Your Mob information guide - Getting started

Discover the steps on how to start tracing your First Nations family history. Learn where else to search for information, and some tips to make your research easier.

PDF · 98 KB

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