Aboriginal people and family history

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

New South Wales

For records and services useful for research in New South Wales, it is advisable to consult the websites for the following record repositories and government agencies:

The New South Wales government's Family Records Unit is the custodian of the Aborigines Welfare Board (formerly Aborigines Protection Board) records for 1883 to 1969. The Unit was set up to help Aboriginal people in NSW access records about themselves and their families, particularly members of the Stolen Generations. 

The State Library of New South Wales' Mitchell and Dixon collections are a rich source of material relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Their Aboriginal Australians family history online research guide provides a starting point for learning about research and resources in this area. The guide includes information about birth, death and marriage records (1788-present), Electoral rolls (1903-present), Tindale genealogies, the Australian Indigenous index and Minutes of the meetings of the New South Wales Aboriginal Protection Board and the Aboriginal Welfare Board. More information is available under the guide's tabs: Specific resources for Aboriginal family history, Books with Aboriginal family histories and Other organisations with Aboriginal records. (The publication Aborigines mentioned in the minutes of the meetings of the New South Wales Aboriginal Protection Board (APB: 1890-1939) and the Aboriginal Wefare Board (AWB: 1939-1969) mentioned in the online guide is available at the State Library of Victoria.

The State Records of New South Wales, the New South Wales government administrative records archive holds a significant number of records relating to Aboriginal people. Many of the records were created as a result of government legislation and policies that had a major impact on Aboriginal people's lives. State Records have produced the Aboriginal Resources: a guide to NSW State archives that provides an overview of their collections. Their Family history guide includes a link to the Indigenous family history worksheet.

The following online indexes are searchable through their website:

Aboriginal colonial court cases 1788-1838

Aboriginal people in the Register of Aboriginal Reserves 1875-1904

The NSW Department of Community Services, Family Information Services has produced a valuable resource: Connecting kin: guide to records: a guide to help people separated from their families search for their records. The guide lists records for NSW government welfare agencies, state wards, dependent children's register cards and adoptions and shows where the records are kept and how to access them. The guide lists records relating to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people separated from their families.

The New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages provide free online searches of their historical indexes.


State Library of Queensland

The State Library of Queensland provides the online guide: Getting started on your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history which includes a step-by-step guide to tracing your family history and offers a number of links to related online resources. Their Online resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strat Islander family history research guide provides information about government and non-government web resources and is an excellent starting point.

Their online guide, Finding records relating to aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people provides links to information guides about a range of records useful in this research area.

Their online guide Missions and reserves provides brief histories about the creation of missions and reserves in Queensland including locations which were home to many aboriginal people but never formally gazetted as reserves.

A useful resource is Tindale: genealogy name index for the Indigenous Resource Unit. If a name of interest is found in the index, contact the State Library of Queensland.

The State Library of Queensland holds the Margaret Lawrie Collection which includes names and genealogical charts relating to Torres Strait Islander families.

Queensland State Archives

Queensland State Archives (QSA) has many records about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and about South Sea Islanders. There are some indexes available in the Search Room at State Archives. Many of the records are restricted for privacy reasons and are only available to those people directly related. The website for the (QSA) also contains important information about available government resources in Queensland. Their index to the Colonial Secretary's correspondence related to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people for the years 1859-1903 is available online.

For further information on restricted records you should contact the Queensland government's Community and Personal Histories section.

Northern Territory

The records relating to the administration of Northern Territory Indigenous Australians remain with the Commonwealth Government and are held at the National Archives of Australia (NAA) in Canberra and their branch in Darwin. Staff at the NAA can advise about access to information in their Bringing them home name index which aims to help Indigenous people find information in records held by the NAA about themselves, their families and their country.

Records held in the Canberra office have been described in the Archives' guide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Commonwealth records: a guide to records in the Australian Archives, ACT Regional Office. The guide has a comprehensive index which lists the names of Indigenous people identified in the records described in the guide.

The NAA's branch in Darwin can be contacted about access to records held there. Their online guide Tracking family: A guide to Aboriginal records relating to the Northern Territory includes information about organisations holding records relevant to Aboriginal families in the Northern Territory. Records held in the Darwin office, which date largely from the 1920s, include population records, the Register of Wards, patrol officers' reports and records relating to pastoral property, health and education. 

Contact details for various agencies can be found on the Family history resources in the Northern Territory fact sheet as part of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) website.

South Australia

For records and services useful for research in South Australia consult the websites for the State Library of South Australia and the State Records of South Australia.

State Library of South Australia

The State Library of South Australia provides an excellent online research guide, Aboriginal family history that has been developed to assist Australian Aboriginal people wanting to trace members of their family using the Library's collections.

State Records of South Australia

The State Records of South Australia (SRSA) is the records archive of the State Government of South Australia. Their online guides, Aboriginal services, Finding your Aboriginal history and Family history research at State Records provide information about records held at the SRSA and links to other state and national collections. The guide, Ancestors in archives is an easy-to-use reference tool, particularly for family historians. Over 750 different series of records are described in a straightforward manner to guide the user through the State Records large and varied collection.

The South Australian Museum's website provides a link to their South Australian Museum Family History Application Form. The Museum's Mapping family programme is primarily an index to names, genealogies and data cards recorded during the Harvard and Adelaide universities 1938-1939 expeditions in South Australia. It provides information about the location of the records held in the South Australian Museum Archives and can be used to assist Aboriginal people to link up with family and community. This resource can be used to grow family trees.

Western Australia

The Department of Communities Child Protection and Family Support's guide Personal and family information Aboriginal and former Wards records-finding out about your past explains the services offered and gives contact details.

The Department of Indigenous Affairs provides information about the Aboriginal History Research Unit .

The State Library of Western Australia's Indigenous family history website provides information about 'Getting started' and links to online resources.

The State Records Office of Western Australia is the repository for Western Australian government records. Their online guide, Aboriginal family history provides information about their holdings of official records that are useful for family history research.

Torres Strait Islands

The records relating to Torres Strait Islander people were not regularly collected or documented until about 1935, therefore, there are not many earlier records available.

The Islands are under Queensland government jurisdiction. See the Queensland section above for information about record repositories and services in Queensland.


Linc Tasmania is the combined State Library and state government administrative records archive. The guide Records on Tasmanian Aboriginals is a good starting point for using their collections and services.

Important information about Tasmanian Aboriginal family history research and the difficulties in establishing and documenting Aboriginal descent is contained in the online guide Aboriginal ancestry.

The Companion to Tasmanian history (Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, University of Tasmania) website provides useful links such Aboriginal missions.