Family history research guides

Our research guides are divided into Life events; Travel and migration; Work and occupations; and Directories and social history plus and A-Z. Use our guides to learn more detail about family history resources to help you in your research.

Life Events

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.

Adoption records

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

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.

Divorce records

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.

Naturalisation records

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.

Blue Books

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.

Police records

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.

Railway employees

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.

Directories and social history

A family history is not just a listing of facts. It is being able to find information that will put your ancestors in a place at a certain time. This enables you to create a picture of their life, and their position in society and history. Are you looking for where an ancestor lived or what happened during their life? Did they own land? Our guides can help you discover the different resources you can use to provide historical context to your family tree.

Biographical resources

Biographical resources give information about a person’s life and family. They may be birth, death and marriage indexes, obituaries or funeral notices. Biographical resources also include pioneer indexes, local histories and dictionaries. State Library holds many biographical resources that cover selections from all states.

Census and muster records

Census and muster records show where a person was living at a particular time in history. In Australia, only early 19th century census records still exist. Discover what records are available for Australia, and for where. See what records State Library holds for overseas.

Colonial Secretary's Correspondence - Letters received re Moreton Bay 1822-1860

Colonial Secretary's Correspondence is the communication between the NSW government and the newly established Queensland colony. It outlines the establishment of the colony of Queensland from its inception to separation. Learn about what information is available and how to access the information.

Directories, almanacs and gazetteers

Almanacs, post office and trade directories are useful for tracing the addresses and movements of ancestors. A listing in the directory can help confirm a person’s whereabouts at a certain time. A sudden disappearance from the directory can provide a clue about a person’s death. You can find information in Trade and professional directories about occupations. Some post office directories also include categories such as ecclesiastical, educational and pastoral directories. Discover what State library holds for each state.

Electoral rolls

Electoral rolls list people eligible and registered to vote, whether at federal, state or local government elections. Electoral rolls can provide useful information, showing where a person may have lived over time. You can also find other family members living at the same address. State Library holds State rolls for Queensland 1860-1900 and Commonwealth electoral rolls after that date. Discover what electoral rolls are available for other states.

House history checklist

Every house has a history, even a newly built house. Explore what resources can help in tracing the history of a house, and the land it's built on.

Land records

Land records can provide useful family history information. They can help to establish family relationships. Land records can place people in a certain time and place. Check out what is available at State Library and online, to find out whether your ancestor owned land in Queensland or interstate. Discover how you can find out more about the land.


Historical newspapers can be an excellent source of information for family history. Sometimes the information reported about an individual may not have been recorded in any other source. State Library holds an extensive range of Queensland newspapers as well as selected interstate and overseas titles.

Persons called before Queensland government committees

People were called before government committees because of their knowledge or expertise. Minutes of early Queensland royal commissions, select committees and other government inquiries can be found in the Queensland Legislative Assembly Votes and Proceedings (later known as the Queensland Parliamentary Papers). Inquiries covered a range of topics such as education, mining, railway construction and the police force. View the indexes for the years: 1860-1900, and 1901-1920.

Queensland Post Office directories

Post office directories, trade directories and almanacs are useful for tracing the location and movements of people and businesses in the past. A listing can confirm a person’s address at a certain time, and may provide clues as to their occupation or year of death. Directories usually contain alphabetical lists of occupants’ names and addresses, but directory contents and their arrangement varied over time with different publishers. While some directories contain a single alphabetical index, others arrange lists geographically, under town or suburb names, or in street number order under street names.

Victoria County histories

Local history allows a person to gain an understanding of the life of their ancestor. Victoria County Histories provide an outline of local history for the whole of England, county by county, place by place. The name is a dedication to Queen Victoria. The Histories cover two types of articles: general and topographical. The general articles cover such areas as the Domesday Book, religious houses and the industries of every county. The topographical articles, the central part of the Victoria County Histories, deal with the natural and artificial features, place by place. Discover which histories State Library holds and how to access them.