Researching your overseas ancestors

A guide to researching ancestors who emigrated to Australia from countries other than the United Kingdom

Search the Library catalogue

This Library has a great range of resources that can help you with your research, including books, indexes, databases, newspapers, maps, journals and social histories. Many resources are held in the Newspapers & Family History Reading Rooms, but some items will be kept elsewhere in the Library, so it's important that you use the Library catalogue to find out what's available and where you can get it.

In the Newspapers and Family History Reading Rooms you will find material specifically related to family history including a number of guide books that focus on researching specific countries or regions.These guides are a great place to start as they often include historical information about the country and details on how and where you can access such key resources as land records, parish registers, census data and birth, death and marriage records. Unfortunately we don't have reference books for every country or region as, for many countries, very little has actually been published. 

The Library also holds an excellent collection of world history books. Once you know where your ancestors hailed from, we suggest you read a history of that country, region or town or try and find a published family history from that region. As you progress with your research think about what life was like at that time your ancestors lived and look at the political, social, religious or economic situation that may have affected their lives.

We also also hold a large selection of foreign language dictionaries and guide books which are useful if you have to write letters to foreign repositories and archives. State Library members residing in Victoria can access many of our online reference tools from home, including Oxford Reference - Bilingual dictionaries, a resource that contains 18 bilingual dictionaries.

Don't forget, if you have trouble finding the right information you can either talk to staff in the Newspapers & Family History Reading Rooms or contact the Library using the Ask a librarian service.

International Family History books

The best way to see what's available in the Library is to search our catalogue for the title of a specific publication or to do a keyword search and browse through resources on a particular topic.

The following examples show the type of searches or search terms you can use to find relevant material:

Here are just a few of our titles that focus on researching your overseas ancestors. They are all available in the Newspapers & Family History Reading Rooms.

Chinese genealogy

This research guide was developed in 2008 by Christopher Wade, formerly of the Genealogy team. This bibliography contains a detailed list of publications and websites relevant to Chinese Australian family history research.

WorldCat lets you search the collections of thousands of libraries from around the world. Use it to find an item of interest and then locate a library near you that holds it, or request it, on inter library loan, through your local public library.


Migrants arrive - at Bruck Mills, Wangaratta, Victoria

Migrants arrive - at Bruck Mills [Wangaratta, Vic.] H2005.100/1035