Do you want to find out more about your family, build your family tree or fill a gap in your family's history? Whatever your reasons, it's likely to be a fascinating project.
Where to start
Think about what you actually want to find out and then get started by:
- recording details about yourself and then working backwards
- talking to your relatives
- finding birth, death and marriage certificates
- finding a blank pedigree chart to record your history.
If you need help with your research, our librarians at each of our libraries are happy to assist you.
Ancestry Library Edition
The world’s largest online family history resource with more than 200 billion images in more than 7,000 unique databases. Explore census records, court and legal documents, immigration records, military records, directories, photos and more.
To login at home: go to Ancestry Library Edition and log in using your membership number and PIN. Please note: home access to Ancestry will be assessed and revised on a monthly basis during COVID-19 restrictions.
To login within the library: go to Ancestry Library Edition while using a library PC or while connected to the library Wi-Fi on your laptop/mobile device.
Find my past
An expansive family history and genealogy website listing millions of records from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ireland - all in one place.
To login: go to Find my past while using a library PC or while connected to the library Wi-Fi on your laptop/mobile device.
The British Newspaper Archive
Millions of historical news reports, family notices, letters to the editor, obituaries and advertisements from newspapers published in the United Kingdom.
To login: go to The British Newspaper Archive while using a library PC or while connected to the library Wi-Fi on your laptop/mobile device. First time users will need to register for a free account.
- Move backwards one generation at a time to your parents, grandparents and beyond, and collect documents as you go.
- Birth certificates provide valuable information about marriage and birth details.
- Always write down where you find information. Make sure it’s very specific so you can find the information again if needed.
- Start a file on each person and family you search and include copies of charts and any other information you find.
- Chart relationships between family members using free downloadable charts from:
- Family Search and
- Ancestry Library Edition (also available for free from our libraries).
- Exhaust all Australian sources before attempting overseas research.
If you do need to research overseas, you'll need the landing parents' names and their town or parish of origin. These may be listed on the death certificate or on the shipping records.
Shipping records are found in Australia, organised on a state basis and are usually indexed according to whether passengers received financial support or not in coming to Australia.
Resources at our libraries
In addition to the resources listed on the research your local history page, our libraries have a wealth of information to help you research the history of your family.
- Browse our library shelves around 929.1 for books about researching family history.
- Check the help guides in our online resources: Ancestry.com and Find my past.
- Check the Library catalogue for historic photographs of your relatives, completed research or information. Search using family names, street names, house names and any subject relevant to your family.
Microform and electronic resources
Ask a librarian for our Guide to Microform and Electronic Resources for Family History Research. Our libraries hold an extensive collection of key resources for family history research in microform format. Many of the film or fiche records are unique to our collection. Most of the records are catalogued and include:
- Births, deaths and marriages records
- Immigration and passenger lists
- Electoral rolls
- Council records
- Cemetery records
- Historic newspapers.
Post office directory
Check for the family home in a post office directory for Melbourne and Victoria to find out who was living there. The directories were published by several companies including Sands and Kenny, Sands and McDougall, Wise and Bailliere's and cover a period from 1839-1974. These are available on microfiche at the libraries and some are now available online at Find my past.
The directories are arranged by year, and householders are generally listed alphabetically by suburb and street. Businesses may be listed in the trades and professions sections. Work backwards through the years until you find when the house was first listed on the site and who was living there. It is important to be aware of where your house is within the block as street names and numbers changed over time.
Rate books list the owners, occupiers and occupations, the construction material, number of rooms and so on, and the rate set for each property. Some are held on microfilm at some of our libraries or at the Public Record Office Victoria (it's helpful to know the Ward that your address was located in). Some rate book records are now available on Ancestry.com.
Taken from the local papers, these are arranged and indexed in vertical files held at Camberwell and Hawthorn libraries:
- EG: LHVF BIOGR includes biography clippings mostly from newspapers
- LHVF FAMIL includes copies of brief family histories or articles about families.
Continually growing, this collection is searchable from our catalogue; ephemera include items such as invitations, brochures and flyers.
Newspapers are a great source of information for:
- birth announcements
- marriage notices
- funeral and death notices
- involvement in local affairs.
Our libraries hold some early newspapers in bound volumes and on microfilm and microfiche. Historic newspapers are listed in our Guide to Microform and Electronic Resources for Family History Research. Many more local newspapers can be viewed at the State Library of Victoria.
Many other newspapers are being digitised and can be accessed online, including:
- Boroondara Library Newspapers and magazines database
- Australian historic newspapers on Trove
- Papers Past, New Zealand
- British Newspaper Archive contains news articles, family notices, letters to the editor, obituaries and advertisements from historical newspapers published in the UK (Available for free from our libraries. First time users will need to create an account).
If you are checking newspapers for obituaries and funeral notices, find the exact date of death from the births, deaths and marriages indexes. You can also check the Ryerson Index for death notices and obituaries in Australian newspapers.
If you are unsure where a death occurred, search electoral rolls or directories to determine where the deceased was last resident. Cemetery records may also be useful.
Death notices may contain helpful information, such as the cemetery where the deceased was buried or cremated, the last address of the deceased and the names of living relatives. They can be particularly helpful in establishing the married names of female members of the family whose marriages occurred after the cut off dates for births, deaths and marriages indexes.
Obituary notices can contain a wealth of background information on an ancestor. Note that inaccuracies in newspaper obituaries and reports can sometimes be misleading, including incorrect dates, names and chronologies. Sometimes this is deliberate to cover some embarrassment or crime. Always cross-check information.
Marriage notices can appear up to several weeks after the date of the event. Apart from the names of the bride and groom, notices may contain the names of the parents of both parties and possibly the suburb or town where they lived.
Wills and probate
A deceased person’s estate is usually administered by the executor named in the will or appointed by the Supreme Court. If there is no requirement for probate, no copy of the will need be kept. However, they are often found in private hands or in the papers of solicitors. All sorts of unknown relatives may appear at the reading of a will. Search online for wills and probate records held at the Public Record Office Victoria.
Other helpful resources
Find my past
A family history and genealogy website listing millions of records from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ireland, all in one place. See Find my past. This can be used for free in our libraries.
Ancestry Library Edition
Genealogy collection of 200-plus billion images in 7,000 unique databases. Visit Ancestry Library Edition (this can be used for free in our libraries).
Genealogy Society Victoria
Research services and workshops to learn the processes and tools for family research. Visit Genealogy Society Victoria.
Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies
An extensive library and a variety of interest groups. Visit Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies.