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DNA & Genealogy

Two National Treasures for Australian Genealogists

Courtesy of the Australian Government, genealogists researching Australian families are extremely lucky to have free online access to some great indexes and digitised records at the National Archives of Australia and the National Library of Australia.

National Archives of Australia

Sample of Airman's Record Sheet - National Australian ArchivesThe National Archives of Australia (NAA) holds an impressive collection of records about people who have interacted with the Australian Government – records such as immigration records, naturalisation applications, military service records, patent applications and correspondence, transport, science, departmental administration, policy information, correspondence, and numerous other treasures for family historians.

As a bonus for genealogists, applications for immigration often included original documents and certificates from the country of origin, and often a photo of the applicant too.  Military service records often also included a photo, as well as physical descriptions, birth details and next-of-kin.


Tips for searching NAA

Click on Search the Collection  >  Record Search, and enter your search keywords.

  • I suggest starting with a surname, then refining the search if you get too many results (eg. add a first name, place name or year).
  • Refer to NAA Search Tips for help with Advanced Searches, wildcards and Boolean searches.
  • In your search results list, an icon in the Digitised Item column (second from the right), indicates the record has been scanned, so click on the icon to view the digitised copy.
  • If the record has not been digitised, you can click Request a copy, and for a small fee it will be scanned and added to the database in future weeks.
  • To limit search results to those with digital copies, click the Advanced Search tab, choose Items, and repeat your search with the Digital copies only checkbox ticked.
  • Note the different tabs at the top of the page, where you can search separately for Names, Photos, and Passenger arrivals.
  • To save digitised record pages individually as JPG files, right-click on the image and click Save Image As...
  • To save the whole record to one PDF file, copy the Item barcode from the right-most column of the results page or from within the record, then go to SODA, click Barcode retrieval (at the very top of the page), paste the barcode into the search box, click View, then click on the Export PDF icon.
  • Check SODA for newly published items and subscribe to receive email alerts for specific keywords.
  • If you find a relative’s immigration record, also search on the ship name and arrival date to see if you recognise other passengers on that voyage, as families or friends may have immigrated together.
  • NAA also hosts Destination Australia, which includes post-war photos and stories of Australian immigrants and the schemes they travelled under.  The public is encouraged to search and tag photos of those they may recognise, and add details if known.


Header from The Australian News for Home Readers 1865


National Library of Australia

The National Library of Australia’s Trove website contains thousands of digitised newspapers from 1803 to 1954, as well as books, images, maps, diaries, letters, and some titles after 1954, such as The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Trove’s digitised newspaper collection is an amazing resource for genealogical research, as it includes many items of historical interest, such as:

  • News – weather, disasters, accidents, murders, trials, strange events, special occasions, military news, political news, business and financial news, scientific news, overseas news
  • Family notices – births, deaths, marriages, obituaries, and many notices copied from overseas newspapers
  • Public notices – probate notices, court notices, criminal reports, government gazettes, lost and found, missing persons, lost relatives
  • Shipping notices – often including details of ships, their cargo and destinations
  • Passenger arrivals – names are sometimes listed, and occasionally places of origin too
  • Sports results – even includes pigeon shooting from England
  • Advertising – includes names and details of business owners, personal adverts, eg. for housemaids, services, accommodation, rentals, carriages
  • Social news – social and gossip columns, visitor notices, fashion pages, wedding and anniversary write-ups


Tips for searching Trove

  • Trove is easily searched by keyword, and results can be refined by newspaper title, category, illustrated, decade/year/month, and word count.
  • For help with Advanced Searches, wildcards and Boolean searches, see NLA Trove Search Tips.
  • Titles can be browsed by issue, which is useful if your keyword search is unsuccessful due to poor electronic translation.  For example, you can browse a particular issue to see if there was a birth, marriage, death notice, obituary or shipping arrival notice published on a known or estimated date.  Consider that there may have been a delay between the event and publication, particularly for overseas notices.
  • If you can’t read an article clearly, try searching for the same article in a different newspaper title to help fill the gaps (eg. many articles were reprinted by different newspapers in the same region, state, or nationally – often within a few days of each other).
  • Anyone can correct errors they find in the electronically translated text, even without registering.
  • Tags (public or private) can be added to articles to enable easy retrieval at a later date.
  • Lists (public or private) can be created to keep your articles organised.
  • New issues are added daily, with an email alert available by RSS feed.
  • Search results sometimes include as-yet-unscanned items (‘coming soon’).  Just click on the link to set up an email alert to notify you as soon as the item has been digitised.


Unclaimed Letters, March 1841, Government Gazette - National Library of AustraliaThese wonderful national treasures can reveal some great surprises for family historians and genealogists, and prove very helpful in filling big and little gaps in our Aussie family trees.

Don't forget to use these national resources in combination with the free Australian state-based genealogy resources such as birth, marriage, death, immigration, legal and other local records managed by the state governments.


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