Our research guides are divided into Life events; Travel and migration; Work and occupations; and Directories and social history. Use our guides to learn more detail about family history resources to help you in your research.
A life event is something that changes things in your life. This could be locating records for a birth, death or marriage in Australia or overseas. It could be trying to discover if a will existed or whether someone was in an institution. It might be trying to trace an adoption. If you are looking for any of these events then life events is where you can find the guides and resources you need to get started.
Legal adoption started at different times in different states. Records began around the early 1920s. There is advice on how to access and locate adoption records. It includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples adoptions and overseas adoptions. State Library of Queensland holds resources that are useful when placing and tracing the parties to an adoption.
Australian parish records
Before civil registration began, church records of baptisms, marriages and burials are the main way of tracking the major life events. These records can also add to or substitute for missing civil records. Find out what parish records are available for churches in Australia, and for what time period. This includes what is held at State Library and elsewhere.
Births, deaths and marriages
Birth, death and marriage records can provide useful information to trace your family history. Find out what official records are available, and for what time period, in Australia as well as New Zealand and England and Wales. Discover other useful indexes, and learn some helpful tips when searching for birth, death and marriage records.
Cemetery records allow people to trace their ancestors to a particular area and time, and may provide links to other members of the family buried in the same cemetery. Published cemetery records can vary in the amount of information supplied. Learn about the type of information that can be found, and some tips when researching. Discover a selection of available cemetery records at State Library and online.
Records associated with the breakdown of marriage are often those that can most fully 'flesh out' a family history. They can provide a human viewpoint to otherwise bare facts. Divorce files may contain marriage certificates, correspondence and a great deal of information about the family. Discover what divorce records are available in Australia, and where to find them. Find out how to locate divorce records in New Zealand and Great Britain.
England and Wales birth, death and marriage records
Civil registration began in England and Wales in 1838. Find information about what records are available for births, deaths and marriages in England and Wales. Learn how the birth, death and marriage indexes are arranged, and what information is provided on the indexes. Get some tips as to why some records are hard to find. Discover what other indexes are available and what you can access online.
Orphanages, children's institutions and child migrants
Children were often sent to orphanages or homes if both parents died or if one parent died and the other couldn't cope, and there was no-one else to care for them. Access to most records relating to orphanages and children’s homes is restricted. Records are generally held by the government or by the organisation, which ran the institution. Each State archives or records office hold early records of government run institutions. State Library holds a number of published resources that can assist family historians to locate the appropriate records. Included are a number of helpful websites.
Wills, probate and intestacies
Wills can be a vital resource for family historians, but only approximately 5% -10% of all wills go to probate. They often contain information difficult to access elsewhere, e.g. the surnames of daughters whose marriages occurred outside dates covered by birth, death and marriage indexes. A copy of the death certificate may be included. Also included are details of the deceased’s assets, occupation, and the names and addresses of children and grandchildren. Discover where to locate wills in Australia as well as Great Britain and New Zealand, and how to access them.
Travel and migration
European settlement in Australia began in 1788. Since then millions of people from Europe and around the world have arrived in Australia. How did your ancestors come to Australia? Why did they come? Did they migrate for a better life, or were they convicts serving time? Find out about their voyage and migration. Use our guides to chart your family's journey with State Library's collections.
Convict research: how to trace a convict ancestor
Transportation of convicts to Australia occurred between 1788 and 1868. Depending on the time period; convicts were sent to New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. Learn how to use British and Australian records, online and at State Library, to find the arrival of your convicts.
Convict research: finding out more
Once you locate the right convict, what are the next steps to finding more information? Discover what the British records can tell you. Check out what records are available at State Archives & Records NSW, and see how these records can help. Find out what State Library holds for Moreton Bay convicts.
German immigrants and immigration
German immigrants began arriving in Australia in large numbers from 1838. They came from areas not necessarily part of the Germany of today. Discover some of the titles in State Library's collection that can help with location and general German genealogy. Find some of the online resources that are available. See how you can locate shipping details for your German ancestors. Learn about what other resources are helpful in tracing immigration details.
Huguenots - Tracing Huguenot heritage
Huguenots fled France to escape persecution. Approximately 20-30% of the English population have Huguenot ancestors somewhere in their background. Large numbers of migrants from the British Isles came to settle in Australia so many Australians also have Huguenot ancestry. Learn how to identify Huguenot ancestry. Discover who Huguenots were, and how to trace your Huguenot heritage. Discover the types of records that are available, where they are located and what State Library holds.
Immigration and shipping: indexes
Settlement in Australia began in 1788 with the arrival of convicts. From there free settlers and immigrants began travelling to Australia under various government schemes. Each state looked after its immigration until the federal government took over in the 1920s. Learn what is meant by assisted and unassisted passage. Discover which indexes can help you find out about your ancestors' travels and voyage to Australia and New Zealand. See what’s available at State Library and what you can find online.
Immigration and shipping: more than lists
Using State Library collections and online sources discover information about immigrant ships and their voyages. See how you can locate a personal account of a particular voyage. Learn about some of the sources available to help find if there’s an image of the ship. Discover some of State Library’s books that talk about the immigration experience. Find out about what records are available to find seamen who served on the ships. Check out the many books on shipwrecks.
Non-British migrants did not have the same rights and privileges as British settlers. Legislation in 1849 formalised the process of naturalisation. Naturalisation gave settlers most of the rights their fellow British colonists enjoyed, including the right to own land. Prior to 1904, the States were responsible for naturalisation applications. Get information about where to find naturalisation records in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, and what's available at State Library.
Work and occupations
Records for occupations can be an important source of information about when (and where) your ancestors worked, how they made their living and what type of life they led. They help provide more detail to your family tree. Find out what resources State Library has on some specific occupations.
The Blue Books (also known as Civil Establishment, Returns of the Colony, or Statistical Returns) were usually published each year. They listed most public servants currently employed by the government. If your ancestors worked for the government you may be able to trace their careers. Learn about the Blue Books and discover what information they hold. See what records are held at State Library.
British Army in Colonial Australia
The duties of the military in colonial Australia are a useful guide to the records available. The soldiers’ duties involved guarding convicts, monitoring Aborigines, pursuing bushrangers, working as mounted police, guarding gold transports, assisting in exploration and the construction of roads, bridges and buildings. Many soldiers settled in Australia permanently and acquired land grants. Find out how to locate a military ancestor, and discover some of the resources held at State Library.
Knowing an occupation of your ancestor can lead to a better understanding of your ancestors’ life. Find out about some of the sources that can help you discover what your ancestor’s job might have been. Learn about the meaning of historic job titles. Discover what you can access online.
Was your ancestor a police officer, or a criminal? Discover where to find police service records in Australia. Find out where to locate police gazettes for each state, and what information is available. Learn where else to find material on crimes.
Pubs and publicans
Pubs played an important role in ancestors’ lives. They were important landmarks and centres of social activities in many towns and cities. As such, they were settings for a number of important events. They also provided employment for the publicans and many workers.
Queensland mining accidents
Between 1882 and 1945, the Queensland Legislative Assembly Votes and Proceedings (later known as Queensland Parliamentary Papers) annually published Queensland mining accidents. The material relating to mining accidents can lead to extra information about an ancestor.
State Library has a number of resources that can provide information on railway employees, especially Queensland. This information, such as location and pay, can help to confirm an ancestor.