Aboriginal Australians family history

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are kindly advised that this website includes images, sounds and names of people who have passed.

All users should be aware that some topics or historical content may be culturally sensitive, offensive or distressing, and that some images may contain nudity or are of people not yet identified. Certain words, terms or descriptions may reflect the author's/creator's attitude or that of the period in which they were written, but are now considered inappropriate in today's context.

Key to library resources

Access anywhere with a library card In the Library (or anywhere with a Library card for NSW residents)
Available to access in the library Only in the Library
Publicly available online Publicly available

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.

Finding Your Ancestors: Researching Aboriginal Family History in NSW

Most Aboriginal people are already historians. They hold knowledge of family ancestry, culture and history, and often treasured family photos and documents. There is much more to find online and in libraries and archives, but if you haven’t searched in these places before, it can be a bit hard to know where to start. Finding Your Ancestors is a project to encourage and help you to take your first steps into researching your family history.

On this website you will find a series of short videos to help you plan your research and get started. It doesn’t take special equipment or training, but there are tips you can follow to help you get the most out of your research.



AIATSIS Family History Toolkit

Indigenous services at the State Library of New South Wales

Three people standing in front of a wall

Indigenous Engagement 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.