Aboriginal people and family history

A guide to resources that will help you to research Aboriginal Australian family history.

National resources

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

AIATSIS is Australia's premier institution for information about the cultures and lifestyles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. AIATSIS staff can assist Link-Up (see below) staff in family tracing and reunion for members of the Stolen Generations and provide assistance with navigating their self assisted website if need be. Their online guide, Finding your family is a good stating point for research in this area.

The AIATSIS online catalogue, Mura, contains the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander biographical index (ABI). The ABI is a personal name index to published material held in the AIATSIS Library and is a very useful tool for family history research. The ABI is compiled by indexers who read through books, journals and other publications and create catalogue records for the names of people mentioned in the publication. You can search the Aboriginal biographical index for names and other information.

National Archives of Australia

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) holds some material about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

An important guide is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Commonwealth records: a guide to records in the Australian Archives, ACT Regional Office. Names of numerous individuals appear within the guide's index.

The NAA has an index to the names of Indigenous people contained in the records they hold, known as the Bringing them home index. The NAA's Finding families guide contains a chapter about records of genealogical interest to Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander people.

Australian state libraries

References to material held in libraries around Australia can be found by searching a library's online catalogue using search terms of interest. Searching library catalogues for the term, aboriginal people-genealogy is a good starting point. State libraries hold numerous sources for studies relating to Indigenous Australians including those for kinship groups, tribes, clans and linguistic groups. The National Library of Australia's Trove database allows searches across the catalogues of a large number of Australian libraries.

Local public libraries and historical and family history societies

It is often a good idea to go local. If you know about individual or family connections to a local area such as a country town, you may wish to enquire about resources held within the local area.

Tindale genealogies

Anthropologist Norman Tindale visited numerous Aboriginal missions and reserves throughout Australia and recorded family information for over 50,000 Indigenous people in a number of volumes showing genealogical charts tracing back to the 1860s and 1870s. The Tindale genealogies section of the AIATSIS website explains how and where to access these genealogies.

A reproduction of Tindale's Aboriginal tribes of Australia, map of boundaries (1974) is available online.

Link-Up

Link-Up is an Australia-wide organisation with offices in every state that focus on reunion with family and country for members of the Stolen Generations. Link-Up assists all Aboriginal people who have been fostered, adopted or raised in institutions to find their way home. Further information can be found under the Stolen Generations tab in this guide.

Additional resources

The Find & connect website lists the locations of records of the various homes, orphanages and children's institutions that operated across Australia.

The Australian Aboriginal Centre for Indigenous Family History Studies website contains name indexes compiled from a variety of government agency records for most Australian states.

Board of Protection reports for most Australian states have been digitised.

Resources for Aboriginal family history. A detailed annotated bibliography that refers to a large range of records including those that contain references to births, marriages and deaths.