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Resources for Australian Genealogy

Posted by Sean Daly on Dec 9, 2022
Graphic of a church school and map of Australia

Researching your Australian roots? Our roundup of genealogy resources will help you go further!

There are many archives available for the genealogist in Australia. However, as federation occurred fairly recently (1901), the bulk of colonial period archives from 1788 are in each state or territory. it’s important, therefore, to have a fairly good idea of a time period and place for an ancestor.

Genealogy in Australia is inextricably intertwined with the British Empire and, strangely enough, with American independence. Britain’s jails were full by the mid-1780s and the American colonies were gone, so the decision was made to send convicts to Australia. Some of these prisoners were poor people who had stolen food or other minor infractions. The arrival of the First Fleet of 11 ships in 1788, followed by the Second and the Third, started the colonisation of southeast Australia. By the time “transportation” ended in 1868, all told some 162,000 people — including 25,000 women — from the British Isles (English, Scots, Irish) had been “transported” to Australia; the great majority reinvented themselves for a new start in life. Families were sent to rejoin fathers, as British parishes did not want the burden of support. The first Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip, believed in the rehabilitation of convicts and knew fair treatment for all settlers was necessary for the colony to survive. By the 1830s, the peak of the transportation period, only about 6% of convicts were locked up. Many became landowners when freed, and even served in colonial government.

This colonization was, of course, disastrous for the Indigenous Aboriginal peoples of Australia, through war, displacement, and disease. In recent decades, efforts have been made to right past wrongs and to recognize the role of First Nations people in the history of Australia. Australia Day, the national holiday inspired by the date of the First Fleet’s founding settlement in Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788, is a day of mourning for First Nations people, and is often called Invasion Day. There is popular support for choosing a different date for Australia Day, or for creating a separate holiday (this article by national broadcaster SBS provides historical context).

The Marco Polo, a clipper ship, brought emigrants from Liverpool to Melbourne during the gold rush in the 1850s; she was called “the fastest ship in the world” for a time.

Australian resources at Geneanet

Geneanet has some, but not many, indexes of Australian records (the exception is Queensland!). However, our volunteer-driven Save our Graves project has documented the graves of many Australian soldiers who fell in France and Belgium during World War I and some from WWII as well. And, our huge collection of Postcards has a small but growing number of images from Oz; consider uploading your own postcards today!

Geneanet volunteers photographed and indexed this memorial to two Royal Australian Air Force crew who crashed in France during World War II.
Some convict registers available in Australian archives are rich in information with the ship of arrival and remarks. Often, the Australian genealogist faces the problem of an ancestor with a common British or Irish name.

Australian genealogy resources

Here is a list of resources for Australian genealogy we have compiled which will help you with your research. We have tried to be exhaustive, so if you know of a good resource we missed, please let us know in the comments!

The first Anzac Day procession through the streets of Brisbane, 1916. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Australia’s States & Territories

The De Salis / Farrer family living at Lambrigg Homestead, Tharwa, ACT, c.1896

Did we miss any resources? let us know in the comments! And don’t hesitate to ask for help in our forums where we even have an Australia section. Geneanet members are helpful and questions are monitored by support. New Zealander? We have an article planned for you, too!


Anonymous user

My family name was Haverty Galway Ireland. Three. Brothers went to Australia Brisbane I believe. Any information on the name would be appreciated..

Answer from Geneanet: The Geneanet Origin of Last Names heatmap for Haverty shows the name concentrated in Melbourne, Sydney, and nearby Newcastle in the 1800-1900 period.

I am new to, so please forgive my question if it has an obvious answer. My mother’s side of the family (Williamson) consisted of mostly Shetlanders from the Dunrossness area. I have some information that a few Williamsons left the Shetlands in the early 1800s for Australia. I would presume that they may have followed other relatives and that they would have settled in similar Australian regions. Does anyone have an idea about where I might start looking? Were there areas where Scottish immigrants tended to congregate? Thank you for any help you can provide.

Answer from Geneanet: Welcome! Many Scottish people emigrated to Australia in that period, perhaps most as convicts — gold rush settlers left midcentury. The Geneanet Origin of Last Names heatmap for “Williamson” with the year slider set to 1800-1900 (drag the map Down Under from Europe) shows many Williamsons, concentrated in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Newcastle. Start by searching Geneanet for Williamsons in Australia; any results will likely be from members’ trees. The next step will be to search each state’s records. You may encounter the problem of similarly named emigrants. Do try posting your question in the Australia section of our forums!

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