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Aboriginal Australians family history

Beginning your family history research 

Getting Started

Are you tracing your family history and don't know where to start? Use this guide to find key family history resources, some of which are specific to Aboriginal Australians. 

Before you start

Before you start using the resources in this guide talk to your family to gather as much information as you can.

Electoral rolls

Search the electoral rolls to find out where people lived at particular times. The electoral rolls are arranged alphabetically by surname. In older electoral rolls the occupation of individuals is also given. Before 1984 Aboriginal people were not required to enrol to vote although many did.

Visit the Family history area in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room to search the rolls.

Births, deaths and marriages

NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages - Historical Index search

Use the Historical Indexes to find registers of Aboriginal people who were born, married or died in NSW. You can search freely for information about births over 100 years ago, deaths over 30 years ago and marriages from over 50 years ago. 

As well as the year of birth, marriage or death you will usually find where the event was registered, your ancestor's parents' names and women's maiden names.

Apply for recent certificates from NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages

You can apply for a copy of a certificate through the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages. You need to be eligible to apply as there are strict rules regarding individual privacy in NSW. Check the application form for details on eligibility.

You will be charged a fee by the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages to apply for a copy of a certificate.

Indigenous services at the State Library of New South Wales

Three people standing in front of a wall

Indigenous Services team (pictured above) at the State Library of New South Wales partner with Indigenous communities to share and celebrate stories of Indigenous Australia.

Did you know?

Aboriginal births, deaths and marriages (though not all) were recorded in the same way as the rest of the population — especially when families were in regular contact with church or government officials.

Aboriginal reserves

A useful book for Aboriginal research in NSW is Aboriginal Reserves in N.S.W.... This is a comprehensive listing of Aboriginal reserves established in NSW, detailing when started and/or closed.

Aboriginal missions

Consult Wikipedia for a List of Aboriginal missions in New South Wales. This list will give you a short history of Aboriginal missions in New South Wales as well as their locations.