Australian colonial forces and family history

A guide to researching Australian military personnel serving in Australia and overseas between 1788 and 1902


Welcome to the Australian colonial forces and family history research guide, a starting point for those wanting to begin researching military personnel who served in colonial forces in Australia and overseas from the first military presence that arrived with the First Fleet in 1788 to the end of the South African (Boer War) in 1902. 

Royal Victorian Artillery, Collingwood Company,early 60s, H98.105/3537

The guide introduces the historical context, select records and resources, the main record repositories and some basic research strategies associated with this area of research. Resources include other published guides and websites for relevant government agencies such archives as well as websites produced by individuals and interest groups. These websites provide in-depth information about available records, facilities and services provided by each agency and in some cases they provide lists of names of military personnel.

The guide concentrates on members of British Imperial forces that came to and served in Australia between 1788 and 1870 as well as forces that were raised by colonial governments that served in colonial volunteer forces and militia. The guide also provides information about Australian military personnel who served in military conflicts overseas such as the New Zealand Maori Wars (1845-1864), The Sudan War (1885) and the South African (Boer) War (1899-1902).

Click on the tabs across the top of this page for more detailed information on each topic.

Special thanks to Tom Corfmat, State Library of Victoria staff member, for his support of and input to the preparation of this research guide.

This is a work in progress. If you find errors, or if you can suggest other information sources or approaches to the topic, please contact me.

We hope you find the guide helpful and useful.

Family history guides