Researching your family

The National Archives is a rich source for family historians.

Many of our records are about people – individuals who migrated here, served in our armed forces, were interned or investigated by the government, were Indigenous, or who applied for a copyright... the list goes on.

The trick is to identify how family members might have had contact with the Australian government, and to identify what sorts of records we might have about them.

Think about contact between your family and the government

In particular, areas of interest are migration (migrated to Australia during the 20th century), defence (served in the armed forces) and Indigenous affairs.

Think about possible interactions of your family and the Australian Government, for example:

  • applying for a passport
  • receiving a pension or other government benefit
  • travelling out and back into Australia
  • applying for a relative to visit from overseas
  • registering a patent or trademark
  • becoming an Australian citizen
  • receiving a government grant or scholarship
  • enrolling to vote

For more ideas, see the resources listed below.

Use RecordSearch for a surname search

Start by doing a quick surname search using the NameSearch tab in RecordSearch.

NameSearch lets you search the collection more effectively for records relating to individual people. It's easy to use – simply enter a family name, select the category of records and select 'search'.

Tips on how to use NameSearch

Census records of 2001 and 2006

In the national censuses of 2001 and 2006, millions of Australians opted to have their personal census information kept as part of the Census Time Capsule. Family historians were instrumental in arguing for this valuable information to be kept for future generations.

The Time Capsule is being kept secure by the National Archives and is closed for a period of 99 years. It will be released to the public in 2100 and 2105.

Quick family name search

An easy way to see if we have records about your family is to use the NameSearch tab in RecordSearch. Simply enter your family name and select the type of records you want to search.

Destination Australia

Destination Australia features more than 20,000 photographs of migrants who arrived in Australia from all over the world after World War II.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2015