Indigenous Australian Family History Resources

While there are many genealogy sites and resources available on the internet only a few people are aware of the depth and quality of information available at both federal, state and district level for those interested in indigenous Australian family history research.

This post , taken from, presents many of those sites in an article that was reprinted in the MDHS journal in 2011 with the permission of Cora Num of CoraWeb. It has been updated with current links and a couple of newer sites also featured on the CoraWeb site.


Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies,
AIATSIS-imageThis site offers resources and guidance to help with tracing Indigenous family history. These include the online Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Biographical Index, a family history information kit which includes 23+ printable fact sheets and a Brief Guide to Indigenous Family History Research. There are Online Collections which include the Koori Mail (1991-2011), Dawn and New Dawn magazines (1952-1975) plus other resources.

An index to the Koori Mail from May 1991 plus an index to biographical information from Our Aim (1907-1961), Dawn (1952-1969), New Dawn (1970-1975) and Identity (1971-1982). Digitised copies of the Koori Mail (1991-2011), Dawn and New Dawn magazines (1952-1975) are available on the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies site.

Mura Gadi
An online guide to manuscripts, pictures and oral histories relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders held in the National Library of Australia. There are online index searches, searches by region and links to digitised copies of the material if available.

National Archives of Australia Records About Indigenous Australians
This site details records held for the Northern Territory and Victoria plus details of government policies on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. There is a link to Publications and other resources about Indigenous Australians which includes information on the Bringing Them Home name index (not online), links to online fact sheets, research guides, books and relevant websites.

Australian Aboriginal Genealogical Resources by Paul Mackett ( Mackett Index)
Index of Aboriginal names extracted from a range of publically available records in various state and federal archives throughout Australia

Indigenous Australians at War
A site dedicated to Indigenous Australians who served in war and peacetime. Includes bibliography, roll of honour, photographs, links and more.

Australia’s War 1939-1945- ‘All in’- Indigenous Service
Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australia’s War 1939-1945. This site looks at the role played by indigenous Australians in World War II.

Adoption and Forgotten Australians
A family history research guide, by the State Library of Victoria, for adopted people, Forgotten Australians and child migrants.
TIP: Check state libraries and state archival repositories for similar guides

Remembering the Mission Days-Stories from the Aborigines’ Inland Missions
This site by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies features the magazines published by the Aborigines Inland Mission of Australia (AIM)

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 4.23.37 pmAboriginal Placenames
The book Aboriginal Placenames: Naming and re-naming the Australian landscape, edited by Harold Koch and Luise Hercus, co-published with Aboriginal History Inc, 2009, is available in printed form or as a free download.

New South Wales

State Records New South Wales
Indigenous Communities
logoScroll down to the bottom of the page and click on Researchers then Indigenous Communities for access to many SRNSW resources including Archives in Brief fact sheets, a Guide to NSW State archives relating to Aboriginal people, plus online indexes to Aboriginal Colonial Court Cases (1788-1838) and Aboriginal People in the Register of Aboriginal Reserves (1875-1904) and links to other indexes that may be relevant.

Milton Ulladulla History Website
The Aboriginal category includes resources and indexes for researching indigenous families from the South Coast of New South Wales.

Northern Territory

Northern Territory Archives Service
Use the Archives Navigator link to access the online information leaflet Researching your Aboriginal Family History at the Northern Territory Archives Service. Other leaflets cover mission records, oral history and images. There is also a subject guide to Aboriginal People available.

National Archives of Australia Shop
Research Guides include Tracking Family: A Guide to Aboriginal Records Relating to the Northern Territory. Click on the guide image to access the free downloadable PDF file.


State Library of Queensland – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history
images-1This site has a getting started guide plus information on major resources held, including the Norman Tindale genealogical collection and Margaret Lawrie collection. There is also information on the various types of records and links to other related Internet sites.

Queensland State Archives
Online Indexes include Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People 1859-1903.

South Australia

UnknownState Records of South Australia
Aboriginal Services offers information about access to the records held plus details of available publications such as the Aboriginal Resource Kit.

State Library of South Australia
Aboriginal Family History Guide

Find Your Way Home
With SA Link-Up aims to assist Indigenous people find connections to family and access reunification and other services. The guide Finding Your Own Way is available online (PDF) and it details existing records of South Australian children’s homes and institutions. This site also details SA Link-Up’s book Aboriginal Missions in South Australia which covers the history of the missions and the names of people who lived there.


LINC Tasmania – Brief Guides
Brief Guides include several for tracing Tasmanian Aboriginals. Use Brief Guide 18: Records relating to Tasmanian Aboriginal people. This guide has links to two other related guides (nos. 16 and 17).


Public Record Office Victoria
Unknown-1Koorie Records Unit aims to highlight Aboriginal records within the PROV’s collection. There is a link to Finding Your Story: A Resource Manual to the Records of the Stolen Generations in Victoria. This manual is available as a free download (PDF).

State Library of Victoria online Research Guides includes information for tracing Aboriginal People.

Black Gold: Aboriginal People on the Goldfields of Victoria, 1850-1870
The book Black Gold: Aboriginal People on the Goldfields of Victoria, 1850-1870, by Fred Cahir, ANU E Press and Aboriginal History Incorporated, 2012, is available in printed form or as a free download.

Western Australia

State Library of Western Australia. Indigenous Family History guide.

coverLooking West
A detailed guide to Aboriginal records in Western Australia, published by the Records Taskforce of Western Australia.

Department of Indigenous Affairs (WA)
This site offers a Family History link.

Extract from AIATSIS Fact Sheet 3. About Names

Names are not always what they seem, particularly in Indigenous family history research. When tracing your family history it is worth bearing the following in mind:
• Indigenous people were often identified in
older records by a given and/or traditional
name only.
• When Aboriginal people did take European names, their origins commonly include –
European translations of traditional names. The name of the property they worked on. The name of the property owner or other employer.
• You may find unexpected variations in the spellings of names. Until very late in the 19th century, there were very few people who could read and write well, meaning that a person may not know that their name was being spelt incorrectly. Names were often spelt as they had sounded, leaving plenty of scope for errors.


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