To build a family tree back to the first
immigrants of this country is the goal of most of us
although it is impossible to predict how much work will
be involved and how long it will take. Some branches may
be easy to track with a chain of birth, marriage and
death certificates and parish register entries, and on
others we may get stuck and need to trace siblings to
get the clues we are looking for. In either case we need
to start with birth, marriage and death certificates
from the most recent generations possible, and we
work back from there.
The purchasing of certificates is the most expensive
part of the process. Civil registration of births,
marriages and deaths in Australia began in the 1850s,
and most certificates after this date must either be
purchased from the Registry of Births Deaths and
Marriages in each state. When we get one lot of
certificates back we usually then have enough
information to order certificates for the previous
generation, all going well.
Ask your relatives and family members - you may be
surprised to find some of these certificates already in
Once we get back before 1856 we can search parish
registers for baptisms, marriages and burials, which are
the only records we can access before this date.
Eventually for each branch we will find that the
ancestor states that he/she was born outside of
Australia, and so we can look for the immigration.
Assisted immigrants are the most convenient for us as
family historians because of the information they had to
provide, including parents’ names and where they were
living. Most immigrants fall into this category – that’s
why they came, to make a better life for themselves. The
more well off immigrants paid their own passage and are
difficult to find as there is little to distinguish them
from others of the same name.
the first immigrant on a branch may be a convict. Most
researchers are excited to find a convict these days,
although attitudes in the past meant that this
information was kept quiet. Convict records are good in
that we know where they came from and what crime they
committed except for the early arrivals, but it is
difficult to find parent’s names for convicts unless
they are published in local newspapers or the trial
records of children.
What were their lives like?
Once we have the basic tree and have found how each
branch first arrived in Australia, and perhaps traced
the family further back in the old country, we can find
more personal information about each person. This kind
of information can give us an idea of what sort of
person the ancestor was – what they did for a living,
how much land they owned, what was left to the children
when they died, and so on. This search involves looking
in a large number of places – probate, convict records,
newspapers, electoral rolls and directories, and many
more. Probate is the process of proving that a will is
valid. Not every type of record is available for every
ancestor, particularly women, but can be a goldmine when
they are found.
In some cases it becomes necessary to search for this
kind of information in the absence of birth/death
certificates so that we can determine parentage and so
There are many different ways to present family history
Ancestor/Descendant charts –
charts can be designed to suit the family and can be
printed and framed or laminated.
Reports/Stories - Let me write a unique story
about your family history including photos, maps and
details to help bring your personal story to life.
a website allows more complete information to be
presented than is possible in a chart, including
siblings and descendants, and more complete information
about each person. Photographs, maps and other images
can also be displayed.