We can show you the way

We can show you the way
Visit the Library this National Family History Month
28 July 2017

When starting your family history research, you can find a lot of information online; information that is often easy to access and view. Web databases link together a range of information sources and make them convenient to search, however, as you delve deeper, you may find yourself needing to refer to more specific resources in books or on microfilm. The National Library of Australia holds a large collection of these family history resources, most of which are available in the Newspapers and Family History Zone

Family history books

Family history is a popular pastime, so much so that people have written substantial books about their family's lives. The National Library has over 15 000 books compiled and published by family historians, covering everything from the Abbott family history, 1570-2000 to Zweck: a family history. All of the research is complete and if it fits, it's ready for you to write into your own family tree

A small selection of the National Library's family history titles

You can find books relating to your research by typing a surname into our catalogue or, if you can’t visit the National Library, you may be able to find a copy closer to you on the interlibrary database Trove. If you aren’t sure of the right name, or need some help with spelling you might want to check out one of our favourite books on the subject: Australian Family Histories: A bibliography and index by Ralph Reid, available on our reading room shelves.

The Australian Joint Copying Project

Some of the most valuable information about your ancestors can be found through accessing personal items such as letters, journals and pictures. These records show real people, not just statistics. A large amount of records relating to Australia and the Pacific are held in the United Kingdom by the Public Records Office and a few other archives. These collections were microfilmed by the Australian Joint Copying Project and have been made available at the National Library.

This collection of over 10,000 microfilm reels contains, amongst other things: the war records of individuals, papers relating to the administration of the colonies and diaries of voyages in the Pacific region. Personal items like the diary of 19th century ship surgeon, John Campbell, include invaluable information such as the names, weight and literacy of convicts on board the William Jardine.

Entry for John Campbell, taken from page 31 of the Australian Joint Copying Project handbook. Part 8. nla.cat-vn401339

You can read more about the information on these reels in the digitised handbooks for the collection or, via our research guide.

Electoral rolls

Electoral rolls are a fantastic resource for people researching their family history. You can use the Australian electoral rolls to find information relating to your ancestors such as:

  • Occupations: bootmaker, baker, undertaker. See what a relative did to make a bit of coin by searching the electoral rolls, but do remember that this information doesn’t appear on the rolls after 1983.
  • Home addresses: Find out where a relative was living at a specific time, or learn who used to live at your house. Consult the rolls to pinpoint who lived where, when.
  • Family connections: Electoral rolls are also very useful for finding out who might (or who might not) have been living with your family, including adult children, uncles, aunts or even the in-laws.

While some electoral rolls up to 1980 are available via services such as Ancestry.com and Findmypast, not everything is online; the Library holds Australian electoral rolls all the way up to 2009.


Wendy McDougall (1961-), Long lines at Sydney Town Hall, 10th November 2001nla.cat-vn1698585

If you want to check out the most recent Australian electoral roll, you’ll need to visit your nearest Australian Electoral Commission Office.

SAG reels

The Society of Australian Genealogists or SAG microfilm collection is a popular family history resource available in the Newspaper and Family History Zone. The microfilm collection comprises information on historical baptisms, marriage and burial records from NSW churches.

Parish records can be used as an additional resource to birth, marriage or death certificates. A baptism record may include the date of birth, parent’s full names, and even a parent’s occupation. You may also discover unexpected surprises to help you tell your family’s story; some church records may include mission records, convict executions, Sunday school attendance, burial payments and even government church bans due to influenza outbreaks in the community. 

John Flynn (1880- 1951), People gathered at Presbyterian Churchnla.cat-vn606897

To find out if the National Library holds a particular church record you can refer to the Index to the microform collection of the Society of Australian Genealogists. A more detailed contents list is available in the Newspapers and Family History Zone. Do be aware that, due to the nature of the content, copying and access restrictions may apply to some microfilms.

Can’t make it to the National Library this #NFHM? Ask a Librarian how you might be able to access some of these resources to help with your family history research.  


Contributing authors: Leisa Fox, Shannon Sutton and Tighearnan Kelly

Cover image: Woman reading in the Municipal Library, New South Wales, 20 June 1930nla.cat-vn6262010

I am researching the life of Major General William Stewart (1769-1854, Lt Governor and Acting Governor of New South Wales and would appreciate any guidance you can provide.I am aware of material held by the State Library of NSW the Bathurst Library and local Historical Society.Specifically, I wish to ascertain the authorship of the "Memoir of Major General William Stewart" included in your Trove material featured in the Sydney Morning Herald/Bathurst Free Press obituary of him.The "memoir" is a record of his military career and may have been written by Stewart himself. Yours Sincerely, James Donaldson.
Hi James, Thanks for your question, we may have to do a bit of research on this to see if we can find the author. If you lodge an Ask a Librarian enquiry with us we can allocate one of our librarian's to see if they can find any information: http://www.nla.gov.au/askalibrarian Tighearnan
i am searching for Vern Wesche