Finding records

The records listed below can be useful for tracing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history. Each page has information about where records are found and how they can be accessed. Find out how records can help you piece together the puzzles of your family tree.

Join online to become a State Library member and access our services, collections and facilities.

Birth, death and marriage records

  • Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages is the main website for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history. 
  • Check the Registry indexes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births, deaths and marriages as early as European settlement. Use the registration number to order a copy of the birth, death or marriage certificate.
  • Compulsory registration of births, deaths and marriages occurred in 1856 when Queensland was part of New South Wales. 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births, deaths and marriages were not consistently registered in Queensland until the 1940s.

Registry offices outside Queensland

To apply for a birth, death or marriage certificate outside of Queensland please visit the appropriate registry office for more details.

State Library of Queensland has copies of indexes to births, deaths and marriages. See Research Guide : Births, deaths and marriages for more information.

Papua New Guinea

Enquiries about births, deaths and marriages that occurred in Papua New Guinea can be made by writing to:

Papua New Guinea
Registrar General
Office of Civil Registry
Department for Community Development
PO Box 7354
BOROKO, NCD
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Telephone: 0011 675 323 6154
Facsimile: 0011 675 232 1056

What if I can't find a birth, death or marriage certificate?

If you have not been able to find a certificate of birth, death or marriage other information may be available:

Adoption records

  • Adoption Services Queensland is where to start your adoption search. It is free for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients.
  • Other relatives such as spouse, parent, sibling or adult child can apply for identifying information.
  • Adoption Act 2009 (Qld.) no longer allows 'objections to the disclosure of identifying information' but adopted people and birth parents still have the right to not be contacted. 
  • Identifying information includes the adopted person's full name, information about the birth mother and birth father, if known, and any adopted siblings. Documentation usually includes a copy of your original birth certificate.

Other places to look

Police records

  • The Native Police controlled Aboriginal people before Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859. Torres Strait Islanders were under the control of the Police Magistrate on Thursday Island.
  • Queensland Police Museum holds records going back to 1864. 

Held at State Library of Queensland:

Find out more about Court and Police Records in the AIATSIS guide.

See also

Station records

Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders are sometimes named in station records such as:

  • accounts ledgers (include payments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers)
  • station managers' diaries
  • overseers' diaries
  • photo albums.

Held at State Library of Queensland:

Books

Original material

  • Search One Search catalogue using "station records" or if the name of the station is known such as "glengallan station"

Held at James Cook University:

Missions and Reserves

  • Before the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 (Qld.) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mission stations were set up by religious organisations. 
  • Small amounts of land were gazetted as reserves for Aboriginal people. Reserves were run by the Government, not by religious organisations. 
  • The 1897 Protection Act was applied to all Aboriginal reserves. Superintendents were appointed to carry out the Act.  Missionaries also became Superintendents.
  • Most Aboriginal reserves in Queensland were never "managed" reserves so no Superintendent was appointed. These reserves were controlled by the Local Protector of Aborigines.

Search our catalogue:

The Queensland Government has more information in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community histories.

Church records

Church records can include: 

  • baptisms
  • christenings or dedications
  • marriages and 
  • burials. 

The major Queensland churches with records about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are:

Anglican Church - Records and Archives Centre

Australian Christian Churches

Catholic Church - Archives of Archdiocese of Brisbane

For more information also contact the Genealogical Society of Queensland.

See also

  • For information about Queensland Missions and Institutions responsible for children see: A piece of the story
  • For information about records for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders at Hammond Island Mission, Hamilton Island, Sacred Heart School or Sacred Heart Hospital contact Sacred Heart Church, Thursday Island.
    Sacred Heart Church Thursday Island
    Post: PO Box 142, Thursday Island, Queensland, 4875

Christian Brethren

Lutheran Church

Presbyterian Church

This Church was involved with Aurukun (1904-1987), Mornington Island (1914-1978) and Weipa (1896-1966). To find records for your family check the book, Mission Time

Salvation Army

All records for former children in care have been sent to Sydney. The Salvation Army ran Indooroopilly Boys Home (Alkira), Riverview and Boothville hospital and the Purga Aboriginal School between 1915 and 1948. 

Seventh Day Adventist Church

This Church ran the Mona Mona Mission between 1913 and 1962.

Uniting Church

The John Oxley Library manuscripts collection holds Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Queensland records. The conditions for access are as follows: unrestricted access to records more than 20 years old; baptismal, marriage and burial registers are restricted in accordance with the Registrar General's Office, Queensland.

Queensland legislation

  • With colonisation, Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders were subject to a range of legislative controls.  
  • After separation of Queensland from New South Wales the administration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs was under the Colonial Secretary's Office for Queensland. From 1896 it became the Home Secretary's Office.
  • Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 (Qld) created the positions of Protectors of Aboriginals and the Office of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals.
  • The 1897 Act and amending Acts of 1901, 1927, 1928 and 1934 gave the Chief Protector of Aboriginals enormous control over the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland. 
  • Records were created on the thousands of individuals who were subject to this legislation.  These are an invaluable source of information for family history researchers.  
  • Access to these files is managed by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Community and Personal Histories.

For more information:

Records outside State Library