It is important to understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander historical place in Australia’s history, as material is not easily accessible as non-Indigenous people.  Meanwhile, here are some steps that can help yous get started and Information guides … 

First Step – Know yourself

Write down what you know about yourself and family members on a Family Tree.  Writing down your family members birth dates, communities they came from, marriage certificates, exemption certificates.  This does not have to be accurate.

To gain a better understand of how you will need to record information.  I suggest you read “how to” books on family history and review family history tools to use, such as:-

  • Smith, D. and Halstead, B. (1990). Lookin for your mob: a guide to tracing Aboriginal family trees. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
  • Smith, Drew (2016) Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and solutions for every researcher. Publisher: F&W Publications Inc Morgan, George G. (2015)
  • Smith, Drew & Morgan, George G (2014) Advanced genealogy research techniques New York : McGraw-Hill Education, [2014] , ©2014

These books are to teach you how to use tried-and-true methods to organise your genealogical research and techniques.    

View the Queensland State Archives & Department of Family Services and Aboriginal and Islander Affairs (1994) Records Guide Volume One:  A guide to Queensland Government records relating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples book and Internet Sites.

Second Step – Prepare to Share 

Computers, scanners, printers are common tools in family history, always make sure you have information backed.

Remember, computer’s break-down and external drive do get corrupted, so make sure there is a paper trail and photographic albums with original images, housed in archival albums [something that will allow the photograph to breath and keep safe away from sunlight].

Create two folders to house your family history information.  In one of the folders place all the original information, this folder should remain in a safe location in your house. 

The second folder should only contain copies of your family history research information, which you take when visiting family members.  

When showing photographs demonstrate scan images and if an elder wants the image, give it to them. Then go home and print-off a replacement to place back in your album. 

Third Step – Learn from Family

Then go and talk to other relatives and ask them for proof and feedback on your family tree.  View this Checklist to gain ideas.

Ask questions like ..

  • Has anyone has researched family members?
  • Do you have more accurate dates of birth, death and marriages of family members.
  • Can I take a phone photograph  of birth, death and marriage certificates, exemption notices, employment records, or other family history information you may have?
  • What are the names and locations of station, mission or town the family members came from?.

It is important to make copies of family history information provided and write down the name of the person providing the information.  It would be better to make photocopies or scanned items, so if you can purchase a portable scanner this would help. 

Remember to use your family photographs to assist memories so use any images that you have when talking to elderly people.  If possible, make sure there is a duplicate copy of images to leave with family members.

It is an important time to show that you are sharing and have respect for their information, so if you find out something new concerning your family, make sure you sight down who told you what and when. 

Remember memories change in regard to events, so don’t judge or correct elders, just take down the information.

Fourth step – Community Connections

Indigenous families need to trace their family members back to a specific area, or location, as traditionally the Indigenous family or group lived, married, died within the boundaries of their tribal land. 

It is advisable to check records and information kept on local Indigenous people via councils, historical societies, churches, cemeteries, schools, police stations and historians. 

Remember Australian historians and history did not find Aboriginals or Torres Strait Islander peoples worthwhile to write about.  Thus, making research problematic and difficult, however one can never be sure, so check all sources.  Especially diaries of local land. owners as they wrote small snippets on local Aborigines. 

Fifth step – Organisation Online Sites

Libraries, Museums, Art-Galleries, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Departments or Institutions and others hold information pertaining to Indigenous people. They are a warehouse of confusion. 

Queensland State Archives (Aboriginal site) hold the largest amount of personal records pertaining to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Forward on their responsibility to Community and Personal Histories or professional individuals such as Paul Mackett to open up their information. 

The Queensland State Archives do not have a user friendly online catalogue, but their photographic search is fun to view. 

Libraries are more client friendly and the reference staff are willing to assist, so use them. 

The State Library of Queensland two collections that you need to view.  They are the Norman Tindale [Aboriginal Mission] and Margaret Lawrie [Torres Strait Island] genealogical collections.

I suggest that you keep revisiting information organisations on a semi-decade time-frame,  as small titbits of information are released every so often and eemember that the local Public Libraries usually have historical facts pertaining to the earlier days. 

To assist with this step please view Queensland Internet sites to visit. 

Sixth Step – Start Again

Start all over again, as people or organisations may come upon some forgotten material.

Information Guides



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.