Starting to research family in Australia?

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The following are the questions from the chat.

  1. What key records and resources do you use regularly when researching Australian ancestors?
  2. Have you found immigration records for all your ancestors who came to Australia? Suggest tips for finding immigration records.
  3. Have you found Family History or other Societies helpful with your Australian research? How did they assist with your research?
  4. It’s Census time! How do you overcome the fact that Australia did not keep census records (other than those very early ones)?

If you like keeping records using spreadsheets, Pauleen has a fantastic one listing hundreds of places to find information on family.

My most recommended website to start your search

CoraWeb began by an Australian genealogist prior to Google being about. A website which has links to hundreds of family history resources for both Australia and overseas.

Large Australian repositories:

National Archives of AustraliaGetting started then use their guides to find out more about their collections

State archives – most archives or record offices have instructions on how to search, what collections they have and how to cite any records when using in blog posts etc

Australian National University – includes Pacific Research Archives and Noel Butlin Archive Centre – business and labour records

National Film and Sound Archive – including interviews, songs etc

National Library of Australia – Getting started, applying for a library card to use with e-resources

Magazine article from WDYTYA about researching Aussie heritage

Researching your Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage

State Library of Western Australia – has great family history section

Queensland Family History Society has some fantastic links

Overseas repositories with Australian records:

Ancestry – Australian collections online

FindMyPast – blog post listing some Aussie records they have, list of record sets for Australia and New Zealand

Family search – their wiki with Aussie records, list of records they have

Newspapers 

Ryerson Index – death notices from papers and recently digital papers – mainly NSW

Trove – newspapers and gazettes – great for helping fill in gaps and telling stories of your ancestors but also check out other categories in Trove

Other useful websites

Find and Connect – orphanages, children’s homes and institutions

Cyndi’s List – based in USA but has a section on Aussie records

Judy Webster has links to many Australian resources

Andrew wrote about resources in New South Wales

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Comments from the chat regarding immigration, census and societies:

For German immigration to Australia in 19th century you must look at Jenny Paterson’s articles in Burwood FHS’s journal Ances-Tree. Combined with Kopittke indexes they’re gold.

My top tip is check passenger lists at departure AND arrival ports. I know that it’s often said that only arrival ports kept records, but this is not universal. I’ve find out outgoing passenger lists on FindMyPast & matching incoming lists for Fremantle at NAA

I agree Brooke. Depending on the years, lists for ports stopped at en route back to Oz. I also use the PROV records for inbound & outbound unassisted pax to compare it’s assisted immigration lists. Board Immigrant Lists have more detail than Agent Immigrant Lists which are what’s online.

Good tip Brooke @BrookeWooldy I found immigration records from point of departure for Scotland and with more info than we would have here

I found them on Scotlands People Brooke. They have some for those escaping the highland clearances

Land records in Victoria include a huge amount of information incl letters and personal info

I think land administration records come in useful here too….land was often granted as part of the migration package.

a lot of cemetery records have been indexed by societies, so check out the source when you’re looking at the Big Genies and see where the records came from.

I think not having census records encourages us to move beyond just one record set and learn more ways of discovering information.

I think we all just accepted that we had no census records Pauleen and when we got back to England or Scotland where they do it was a bonus!

What about the information found in Australian Wills? They can give a huge amount of information.

And sometimes property deeds eg those available on the List in Tas. I was thrilled to find a trust deed which listed all the children in birth order including my ggf for whom there is no birth/baptism record

And I was only trying to find out when he had to sell his land!

Some Wills are amazing Jennifer. But others are just plain boring unfortunately. I love the Will writers who wrote pages and pages and listed everything and everyone!

Electoral rolls are Australia’s answer to the Census. Of course its not as good as the census but beggars can’t be choosers. Post Office Directories can be very helpful too.

as frustrating as it is to have very limited availability of early census data, we have the benefit of electoral rolls which occurred more regularly and with women able to vote earlier. Also post office directories can be a help.

When I visit the reading room in Hobart Library to do research, I always ask have they got a file out the back on the family I want. Files contain replies from archivists to questions from their clients often prior to digitization.

naturalisation records can help with learning where your ancestors came from. An important difference from USA is that they only apply to non-British immigrants, so you won’t find Irish there.

Many societies are help people doing research in Australia especially when you see the records, books, index’s and loads available though I would add that the personal touch of someone that knows the resources, Australian research, etc is a fairy godmother.

societies have helped me with archives that contain other people’s research. It often has to be checked, but it contains clues.

Check for indexes on local societies where ancestors lived, read the newsletters/magazines issued by local societies

I don’t have any First Nations ancestry so all my Australian ancestors had to come from somewhere else, so my no.1 resource is shipping records: free & convict.

Remember the days when we would write to a person who had researched our family and include a self addressed envelope with a stamp? Seems so long ago now

Consider checking the crew list and not just the passenger records when looking for people.

Great tip Fran I’ve found a few on the crew list including an absconder when they arrived in Australia

I’ve had quite a lot of success with Biographical Database of Australia with my pre 1840’s arrivals – a lot more records added in recent years

Some of the early hospital records have all sorts of fascinating info like the ship they came on, who is their “next of kin” etc. Of course Murphy has his say and the one you want might not have survived.

I found a troubling statement in a Children’s Home Index, and followed up on Trove. Horrific abuse was all retold from a courtcase in the newspaper. I haven’t shared the info with many.

Sometimes it is OK to share hardship and horrible events so that we can better understand our ancestors social context and lives. You could leave out names so it is about the history and not the person. Mind you depends on what exactly happened.

Knowing about the event did help understand the person- but leaving out names wouldn’t be an option in explaining it really. I have got the info on file but am so wary of sharing it.

I can understand your reluctance to #Share. Once something is said it’s not possible to ‘unsaid’ it. Alternatively, knowing information about our #ancestors even when extremely difficult to process can help us understand our own place in the world.

I have found Family History Societies to be invaluable. I visit them whenever I am travelling to an ancestral place. Local History Societies are equally valuable resources along with libraries

Fran has mentioned that Trove also has references to people who moved across the Ditch to NZ or back. Worth the NZers looking at Trove as we should with Papers Past.

most of the State libraries have a list of suitable resources for their state such as this one in SA slsa.sa.gov.au/collections/fa…

many indexes were developed by volunteers from societies and archives. In my research I’ve always found interesting things to learn about immigration by attending classes. Listening to and learning from others is a big help. Academic books are helpful too.

military, war service;, churches attended and donations made; hospital, asylum and orphanage records; court & jail records; govt and police gazettes; petitions.

Yes don’t forget our wonderful military records. The Australian War Memorial even has battalion diaries online

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I have also found local history societies great too. I have paid for some research particularly when newspapers haven’t been digitised on Trove. Local libraries often have great local history rooms too and volunteers to help.

@FamilySearch is one of the main sources I use for passenger records. Although a google search for records groups or individuals have indexed can help find some travellers.

Libraries and especially their Local Studies sections are such an important resource Alex! One I use frequently (when they are not in Lockdown)

I am interested in the answer to Q2 because I am yet to pin down immigration records for some of my husband’s Australian immigrants

Have you checked the immigration records at PROV for entry to Australia? prov.vic.gov.au

Found loads of information on Trove, NSW State Archives, Ancestry.com.au, Archives NZ and more recently the British Newspaper Archive. Also death certificate transcriptions were helpful as they often give the “years in the colony”.

My great aunt died in an asylum. There was a report in the paper. Even stranger, another woman with the same name also died in the same asylum. Difficult working out which one was which.

most of my ancestry is from England, however some distant relatives did move to Australia, after finding B/M/D records the first place I check is @TroveAustralia Trove is just so valuable esp for Family Notices and other unexpected articles

I’ve found that most of my families inquests have been reported in the newspaper so def check Trove

most of the State libraries have a list of suitable resources for their state such as this one in SA slsa.sa.gov.au/collections/fa…

Trove, Ancestry.com.au, NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, local libraries, state libraries of QLD and NSW, NSW State Archives, British Newspaper Archive, NZ Archives, family history certificate transcribers, pers. comm. with family members

Immigration. Inquest files, Land records, Trove, Victoria birth deaths & Marriages, Linc Tasmania, Wills, PROV (Vic archives), Ancestry, FindaGrave, just to start with a few

Worth nothing that for deaths where there was an inquest, the person’s name may not have been registered in the civil death registers.

That’s interesting. For any particular state or the whole country? I was told by NSW that they did not keep the inquest documents so I was unable to research my great grand fathers brothers death in NSW via the inquest. I have the death date from announcements.

Trying to remember but I think that’s correct Fran. Each state archive can have different types of documents preserved, News stories are generally fairly reliable when it comes to legal cases.

thanks for mentioning libraries and personal communication – both very important.

Link to Libraries Tasmania, use the family history portal and also the archives portal. In each of those there are more portals to check libraries.tas.gov.au/Pages/Home.aspx

Link to Tasmanian Names Index from Tassie libraries.tas.gov.au/family-history… Click on right, put in search area name you are looking for

Tasmanian Names Index TNI includes BMD up to 1900, convict records, wills, arrivals, departures, health and welfare, some employment records

most of my immigrants were convicts or free settlers in the 1840s or thereabouts. info found on the TNI online

I was lucky to find my ancestor in an Equity Case in which the defendant referred to him by name, gave his occupation, and said they’d known each other in Bavaria.

ooh immigration records – yes quite a few. Mostly in Queensland through State Archives. My father did very well finding some down in Victoria too. From memory convict records or death certificates might record the ship they came out on. Gravestones too.

I have found all but 1. George Kunkel was a swimmer it seems. Immigration records NSW and Qld, PROV immig for comparison, Immig Deposit Journals (IDJs), Board lists show more detail. Disposal lists, Trove and diaries for the journey.

I discovered a great aunt had died on the Ryerson Index. No one had told me!

Ryerson is fabulous for pinning down those who’ve died in more recent years! And then the notices themselves will give descendants and married names for daughters.

I use electoral rolls, immigration records, directories, church archives, convict records, newspapers, telephone books among others. Some I find online and others are at archives and libraries

Readers: What are some of your favourite Australian sites to use for research?

 

Using census records

Only two more posts to catch up on after this one where we chatted about census records on #ANZAncestryTime.

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Which Census records have you used? Any preferred repositories and why?

Have helped a friend using the Canadian census as well

I’ve used them recently for early Ontario immigrants and tracing them forward then a Google map their change of locations.

freecen.org.uk The aim of FreeCEN is to provide free internet searches of the 19th century UK census returns.

Scottish, English census records, I usually access at FMP or Ancestry. I prefer FMP’s search capabilities & transcriptions NSW colonial musters are great for convicts & early settlers.

I’m just looking at the US Census records for 1900 and as I hover over the column the detail comes up in a text box making it easy to read

1828 NSW census tip: there are 2 copies on Ancestry. The TNA record set is much easier to read than the Aussie record set

the best repository of transcriptions of England and Scotland census is Findmypast and Ancestry with England’s images on both sites but Scotland’s images are only on Scotland’s people. Family Search for the US

Have looked at some of the children’s census in 1826-1828 from CSO records I think.

I have used Scottish, English, Irish & US Census! I love the Scottish and US ones. The 1939 UK register is really good too

Every where that has Census records and I need to do research – Scotland, England, Ireland, USA and the States. I use FreeCen as it has better transcriptions and FamilySearch, otherwise Ancestry which has dreadful transcriptions.

Early NSW colonial census, English census – both from Ancestry – I struggle with American as my 2 x gt gd dad was from Albany Upstate New York – some records challenges there

I’ve used census.nationalarchives.ie for Irish records and FMP, Ancestry, FamilySearch for others. I prefer FMP because the search is more intuitive and seems to have “smarter” fuzzy logic

census records from Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, US, Canada (and, I think, Argentina)

Mainly used English, Scottish and Irish census records, and dabbled a bit in Canadian ones. My go to sites are usually Findmypast, Ancestry, NAI, but also found FamilySearch and The Genealogist useful on occasion to find those ones who get mistranscribed

I use Ancestry and Find My Past the latter is more up to date for 1939 register Canadian census is on the Archives site and have used it

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How have census records helped your research and added to ancestors stories? Any interesting, unsuspected or rare finds?

I think one of the most interesting things I found was the extent to which people were mobile during the 19 century, including return migration from abroad. Changed my understanding of emigration as a permanent move. Also family structure temporarily disrupted

One of my East Clare families had migrated to USA, then back to UK then to Oz. Another set had parents in Scotland.

People were surprisingly mobile! I love the households that have children born in different places.

Me too Maggie and some of the birthplaces indicate a military involvement which might otherwise be unknown

I found a little local census for Carrick on Suir in Ireland which was useful. Just one year early 1800s I think

I once found a census the minister had done for all the people in his parish, same religion or not. Very frank comments on them. Can’t remember now where it was exactly but somewhere in Northumberland.

There’s one for 1840 for my home parish Pauleen – shows some of my RC ancestors were recorded as “Protestant” at the time but also the townland where my GM was born was once known by her maiden name 🙂

Why did the townland name change? Do you know?

I’m not sure it was ever a formal townland name, just a place name. It has two other “official” names, one is the townland name, the other is almost a “field name” within the estate to which it was attached

The most difficult thing I find in Census records is grandchildren staying with grandparents or uncles and aunts and working our who they belong to

I love following a person or family through the different censuses. Just snapshot, you can miss important stuff, but gives a good idea of change over time. Follow a career or family structure as new members come or go. Address up or down market.

I like the fact you can make changes to the census records for spelling of names that have been mis transcribed

Using the Scottish census records I’ve been tracing my unmarried GGGGM from one sibling’s home to the other (1841-1881) This is where FAN approach came into its own. If I didn’t know the sister’s married name, I’d have thought GGGGM was staying with strangers

I found some of my Irish family members move around quite a bit in Scotland, between various households – can be really useful when dealing with common names, having Aunty Winifrid popping up in a household at census time

the census info is full of info, place of birth and often all family members. 1911 is particularly useful for how long couple married, how many kids born and how many are alive. US census indicate immigration info.

As we don’t have good census records for Australia since 1901, so I rely on the the Electoral Records as a substitute and I have found these invaluable – too many times to list here

I agree with you KerrieAnne. The electoral roll up to 1980 on Ancestry, but recently I was at a local history society and they had the 2000 electoral roll there!

Major libraries will probably have up to the latest rolls – at least, they do in NZ. Online access up to 1981 only.

I went to the electoral office and searched the current electoral roll for cousins that we had no contacts for a family reunion – yay for middle names – found every-one I needed. Had to search one by one though so not a quick exercise

I have discovered which ancestors were on poorhouses and which attended schools using English census records

Census records have helped confirm relationships and occupations many of the neighbours are relations

Solon Bowden was deaf. The census showed he was in a school for the deaf. What surprised me was that his sister also was, suggesting a genetic cause. The census also gives the suspected cause for all the children living there.

Finding my great grandmother’s sister in an England census with her birthplace as Ireland and her birth date was the final piece of evidence I needed to link her into the family as suspected from a DNA match.

I think finding a birthplace is probably the most useful feature of any census record Margaret. It is crucial information. That and other family members staying with them

I have a lot of those with the Scotland Census records. Children staying with grandparents. Families living next door. They are sometimes the only records I have for the older members.

Most of my discoveries are nothing really special though I remember my very early census finds for both my maternal and paternal family seemed really exciting at the time. It was finding family members that I knew nothing about, children that had died young, first spouses, etc. It was good to find out about them.

When building back pedigree charts for DNA matches, often need to use census records. Has helped in a few of dad’s lines in Canada

Couldn’t do without census records! Have been a goldmine for my research, especially with my Irish families moving to Scotland.

My husband’s Roberts ancestor from Spitalfields turned up in the Americas – there was also a surname change in England before he emigrated – census records from Ancestry from Americas & UK helped me to work it out

Census can help to find missing ancestors and other relatives. My 3x GGfather was a census enumerator. I couldn’t believe it when I first found his comments about the area at the end of the census

Welllll, I discovered my 2x Great Aunt Jeannie had 3 more illegitimate kids thanks to Scottish census records, which also led me down a rabbit hole in finding her death. It all started with a census record.

I had an Irish family named Martin who disappeared before the 1910 US Census. I found them in the 1900 census by searching first names. Turned out they were Polish names Koniescka

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What strategies or methods do you use to find people in census records and how do you record the information you find?

with Irish people in census in particular, I use a very flexible understanding of “facts” provided, especially age! 🙂 Knowing how collections/databases are organised is also really important. As for recording, excel, and local maps are really useful

when looking for a female who may of married and you cannot find a marriage or too many to choose from, I search the census by first name only along with year of birth give or take a couple of years and birthplace, then check those with marriages

I have a spreadsheet I use when doing census research. Work through families over the census years. Interested finding out about changes in residence including children leaving home. Then try to track their location.

I like to do this also Fran. Sometimes you find interesting connections between people. I found an ancestor living with a family and in it was a daughter who became his wife

Usually search one census at a time, work my way back. For extended families, I’ll set up a spreadsheet, track ages across census years, cross off census years before birth & after death, ensure I cover every household member in the years they were living.

Strategies I use to find records include checking pages nearby locations on close pages by looking forward and back for more family, trying alternative names, looking for the same location as last or next time census.

If I can’t find one member of a family I will try another. Sometimes a name is mistranscribed in the index. Sometimes the age is incorrect (I had one where 59 was read as 39). I’ll try several sources in my search.

I find FreeCen to have the best transcriptions, but their coverage is not complete even for 1841. And they correct very promptly when asked to check. I use the Scotlands People Index a lot too.

I use my census check form to keep track of families. It’s great as I can use it and file it away to keep track of my research. memoriesintime.co.nz/products/censu…

I use census records to eliminate who was NOT an ancestor when they had common names. I find every birth and then trace each person through the Census records to eliminate wrong people

Are there any tips for 1841 census in Hunter Valley NSW – sometimes I find it a struggle as people who should be but aren’t?

I find Ancestry very difficult to find many people because of the large number of errors in the indices. I correct frequently. FreeCen is always my first port of call.

I have used that often. An older person with a different name is the mother’s parent. A Census recently had the married daughter, the other was the long lost daughter of my gggrandfather living with her aunt after her mother’s death (wrong spelling).

UK Census online info ukcensusonline.com/census/faq/

Always good to check the date collection info here familysearch.org/wiki/en/Englan…

often look at next page of census, often locate other ancestors by accident. Findmypast and ancestry have most powerful search engines but transcriptions errors show up in both so have to use wildcards.

Check out people of a different surname living with a family. They are often family members and can lead to finding marriages etc

usually update each person’s profile in my offline tree which is uploaded to ancestry every so often.

Census records make me use maps a lot more to find out which towns are close to others in case family is in both

If I can’t find one member of a family I will try another. Sometimes a name is mistranscribed in the index. Sometimes the age is incorrect (I had one where 59 was read as 39). I’ll try several sources in my search.

I have tried looking for other family if I struggle to find someone or using alternative spellings found someone born Counthorpe Lincolnshire as Countesthorpe Leicestershire

I search for a person using name variations if possible and then search the whole town or village not just the result page

I add Census records to the profiles I write on @WikiTreers I can use those to show information about the family and what they were doing. I add them to my private tree on my computer. I add them to my nephew’s tree on Ancestry. #ANZAncestryTime

A surviving fragment of the England Census for 1821 (transcribed by volunteers) enabled me to identify a 4GGF in my tree.

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Some countries have no, or little, census data that is available to research, including parts of New Zealand & Australia. What alternatives can provide similar data?

Electoral rolls and directories in NZ, land valuation records in Ireland. Newspapers can also be useful to fill in those gaps.

Electoral Rolls. I use those all the time for my NZ research. The early rolls are very useful for working out when someone immigrated to NZ and where they settled. Only available on Ancestry and not all indexed. I often turn the pages to see who is there.

I have found many children using the electoral rolls that can’t be found any other way. Living at home with the parents. Used them to confirm the address my parents lived at when they were married. Same for my aunts. Found my father living with his sister.

Also on FamilySearch, and some on Findmypast, though I tend to use Ancestry in the first instance.

always worth remembering that the archives will have their state electoral rolls and in Qld they’re annotated with where the person has relocated.

I have used Ancestry’s records for issuing of Mining Licences around Glen Innes Emmaville for Chinese Tin Miners in our family network

I’ve used land records, parish census, city/county directories and jury lists/electoral registers for a very limited understanding of people’s lives in 19/early 20 C. Wills/memorials can also sometimes be useful to reconstruct families

Early almanacs at least in Tas often included directories. Earliest in the Tasmanian Almanack published by my ancestor Andrew Bent in 1825

Government Gazettes on trove can also be useful in place of census data and I have also found advertisements in newspapers listing all the voters in a town – eg Grenfell & Toowoomba

NZ jury lists helped me locate a 4xG Grandfather who had left Sydney for NZ without his wife and kids. He had form for this sort of behaviour.

Military records for WW1 and WW2 can also help

Voters lists and directories are helpful for Australian research instead of census

Irish Griffith Valuations have been wonderful for finding my Irish ancestors

I’ve had great success using Griffith’s and then the subsequent Cancelled/Revision books. Love those records!

I would use NSW BDM records where there might not be census records or to augment electoral rolls

Newspapers can be useful where they have petitions, addresses to politicians etc all signed by people in a particular district. Also local valuation rolls for rates in newspapers or govt gazettes

Government Gazettes on trove can also be useful in place of census data and I have also found advertisements in newspapers listing all the voters in a town – eg Grenfell & Toowoomba

At the @FamilySearch Wiki they say there are still some Maori census data available. Looks like Salt Lake City trip to the library required. familysearch.org/wiki/en/New_Ze…

 

Blog posts relating to census

Jennifer: the census registrar,

Helen: Solon Bowden,

Sharn: Census records,

Sue: Where is Isabella?, I’m confused, John Davey 1, John Davey 2, Garshooey,

Readers: What interesting detail have you found in a census record?