How to trace your Australian family history

For many, Australia is a vibrant country with a relatively short history, but for those people looking to trace their family history and genealogical line it can still be a complex issue. Tracing your ancestry has become a global phenomenon and in answer to that, to compliment the archives held by Australia’s government, there are many on-line record sites which can help you step by step through the process and provide database of millions of records. In some ways there are extra sets of records to follow for those tracing Australian ancestors due to the era of immigration and shipping records.

Research your family history

With any important task, preparation is essential. Before setting to the internet and finding a genealogical site take a look closer to home. All information you have about immediate Australian ancestors are going to be your springboard to starting the process. So use documents, certificates, photos and family stories to gather those first important dates and names. Consider interviewing your mother and father about what they know.

You can also visit places where records will be held in your locality such as churches, courthouses, libraries cemeteries, crematoriums and Family History Centres. However if you have moved away (and it is unlikely your ancestors remain local) then an on-line genealogical record site can be vital.

For those people searching for ancestors who came to Australia from the 18th century onwards searchers can also check passenger lists from ships records. There would also be the court records, as up until 1840 Australia also had a penal colony.

Using on-line Family tree websites

To begin using an on-line family tree site you need to have some clear information about your grandparents – their full names and dates of birth. The more information you have the better as it is unlikely you will find only one person of that name and you need to be able to filter by complimenting with supplementary data.  It is a little frightening when you find there are twenty or thirty people of the same name to choose from. To help you keep these simple questions in mind:

  • Do they have a middle name?
  • Date of birth?
  • Where were they born?
  • Where there any significant events in their lives which may have been recorded or certificated?
  • Date of death?
  • Where did they live?
  • Where were they buried /cremated?

The majority of sites will present information which will allow you to filter down in order to highlight your true ancestor.

Australian birth, death and marriage records

Birth, death and marriage records are the most important milestones in a person’s life and can be the key to the structure of your genealogical table. But to really get an understanding of people in the past you need to focus down on other factors which may enable you to build up a fuller picture of the life your ancestors led.  War records offer a rich resource of records to chart the progress of individuals. Whereas on-line genealogical sites such as Forces War Records allow you to focus down on individual wars and track the role your ancestor played in specific wars.

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