Australia is a very young country with a large immigrant population. As the first settlement of Europeans in Sydney was a penal colony there is a plethora of records pertaining to those first non-indigenous settlers. Since then successive waves of immigration has produced a mixed bag of documentation including shipping lists and naturalisation certificates. As the states developed they created their own administrative systems to record births, deaths and marriages, license information - for example for publicans - and business directories. Some of this information is now accessible online and much of it is stored in state and national archives. Below is detailed information and links pertaining to these resources.
TROVE – NEWSPAPERS, PHOTOGRAPHS, MAPS AND SO MUCH MORE
Trove, as the name suggests, is a true source of genealogical treasures and one of the first and best places to start looking for your Australian ancestors.
Several years ago The National Library of Australia (NLA) embarked on an ambitions program to digitize and make searchable their extensive stock of Australian newspapers. The NAA has copies of most issues of most newspapers printed across the country from the establishment of the colony including the The Sydney Gazette, The Australian Women’s Weekly and The Hebrew Standard (published between 1895-1953).
The result is TROVE: the most extensive searchable newspaper collections available in Australia. Today Trove also provides access to photo collections from different libraries, websites archives, diaries and letters, maps and book, music, journals and document catalogues.
Trove is truly a treasure trove of potential for genealogists looking for information on a specific person or place. Doing a name search can yield surprising and unexpected results!
One word of caution though: Trove relies on optical character recognition (OCR), a system where a computer translates the print on the page into editable text. As a consequence it may not always 'read' the printed text clearly (especially in older publications). Think laterally when doing your searches, especially in the newspaper archives, and look closely at the results. Something that appears irrelevant may turn out to be a valuable piece of information. Also, as the NAA are still working on the collection, it’s worth revisiting it every now and then.
NATIONAL AND STATE ARCHIVES
There has been a Jewish presence in Australia for as long as Europeans have been here. There were 8 Jewish convicts on the first fleet as well as sailor, guards and free settlers who came soon after. Records from the early settlements show a community building itself from the ground up with synagogues built in Hobart and Launceston, Melbourne and Sandhurst (better now today as Bendigo) as well and Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
The gold rush saw mass immigration and community expansion, followed by another influx during WW1. Growing anti-Semitism in Europe in the lead up to WW2 saw more Jewish immigration and then, after the tragic events of the Holocaust, Australia took a disproportionate number of holocaust survivors - second only to Israel.
Australian records are divided between the National Archives of Australia (NAA) in Canberra and archives in each state. All archives have dedicated family history pages to help you make the most of their collections.
- NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA
- NSW STATE RECORDS
- PUBLIC RECORDS OFFICE VICTORIA
- QUEENSLAND STATE ARCHIVES
- STATE RECORDS OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA
- STATE RECORDS OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
- NORTHERN TERRITORY ARCHIVE SERVICE
- LINC TASMANIA
BIRTHS, MARRIAGES & DEATHS
Birth, marriage and death records are also known as vital records. These records are generally administered by each state and there are laws that dictate when you can access them if you are not directly related to the subject of the record; i.e. an child or grandchild. In most states in Australia you can access historical birth records after 100 years, marriage records after 60 years and death records after 30 years. Most jurisdictions have searchable databases and there is usually a mechanism to purchase either a hard copy or a digital copy of the record. If you are a direct first or second degree relation to a person you can usually order a vital record inside the limitation period.
- NEW SOUTH WALES
- SOUTH AUSTRALIA
- WESTERN AUSTRALIA
- NORTHERN TERRITORY
- AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY (Scroll down to second question)
Cemetery records are an excellent source of genealogical information. Headstones often record birth and death dates for an individual, places of birth, the names of spouses and children, and sometime even grandchildren. The accompanying cemetery record may hold other information as well. You can search individual cemetery website for your ancestor for most of the major cemeteries in Australia.
- Rookwood Jewish Cemetery - This database covers Jewish burials at Rookwood up until the present day. This includes graves that may no longer have any markers. It contains section and row information, map references and, if available, photographs of headstones.
- Northern Cemeteries - This website covers the major Northern Suburbs burial grounds including Macquarie Park, Frenches Forest and Gore Hill in Sydney and Sandgate in Newcastle.
- Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park - Matraville
- Woronora Memorial Park - Sutherland Shire
- Jews of NSW, A searchable database or Sydney historical and NSW regional burials.
- AJHS Burials - an registry of burials across Australia and, in some cases, other parts of the world. It includes Australian War Graves and a small number of other graves of Australian interest located overseas. The collection builds on the extraordinary efforts of Mrs Beverley Davis OAM who, over 28 years, visited hundreds of cemeteries and, with the support of Australian Jewish Historical Society members, transcribed headstones, including the Hebrew (Ivrit) inscriptions. Formerly known as the BD-DB, this collection is currently maintained by the Australian Jewish Historical Society.
- Metropolitan Cemeteries Board (MCB) - The Government of WA MCB is responsible for managing cemeteries at Fremantle, Guildford, Karrakatta, Midland, Pinnaroo and Rockingham. They have a family history search page with access to their name search tool and instructions for ordering information and images.
- Brisbane City Council also has a family history search page for their cemeteries including Mount Gravatt, Pinnaroo, Hemmant, Bald Hills, Balmoral, Brookfield, Cedar Creek, Lutwyche, Moggill, Nundah, South Brisbane and Toowong.
Australia is a land of immigrants. Everyone with a non-indigenous background descends from someone who came here from somewhere else within the last 225 or so years. Both state and commonwealth archives have immigration records from different times. These records including shipping lists, visa applications, and naturalization records.
Click on the links below to find information and access to available online databases.
- National Archives of Australia - Migration & Citizenship
- NSW State Records - Immigration
- Mariners & Ships in Australian Waters (NSW) - Reports of vessels arrived- Jan 1845-Dec 1853 and Unassisted passengers Arriving 1855 - 1922 to NSW.
- PROV - Ships & Shipping Assisted & unassisted passenger lists to Victoria 1852-1923.
- SROWA - Passenger lists & Immigration records
- LINC Tasmania Arrival and Departure
JOINT – JDC Archives: Jewish Refugees Arriving in Australia via Melbourne, 1946-1954
Australia was one of several penal colonies established by the British. The colony was established at Farm Cove in NSW in 1788 however it wasn't long before other settlements were established in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) , Queensland and Western Australia. There were 8 Jewish convicts aboard the First Fleet. Many more were transported in subsequent years.
Convict records are spread between the UK and Australia. Here are some links that may help you find your ancestors if they came to Australia as convicts.
- Convict Records of Australia
- Information on Convict Records - NSW State Records
- Index to convict records - NSW State Records
- Convict Transportation Registers - State Library of Queensland
- Information on Tasmanian convict records - LINC Tasmania
Ancestry also has extensive convict records in their database. If you do not have an Ancestry account you can access it for free at your local library.
If the person you are researching made a contribution to Australian life they may have an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. As the entries often list other family members, it is worthwhile checking all entries with the same surname.
Australia has been involved in war and conflicts as part of the British Empire and Commonwealth and as an ally to the USA. The Australian War Memorial in Canberra holds many valuable and fascinating records that detail the history of those conflicts such as official histories, unit diaries, rolls and reports. Please note, service records for individual soldiers are held at the National Archives of Australia.
Military records are a great resource for family historians, often providing information such as next of kin, residential addresses and occupation as well as personal data like height, weight, complexion and hair colour. Later records sometimes contain a photograph.
The military file of an individual soldier will also contain all correspondence sent to and received by the military pertaining to that person as well as detailed information regarding their movements during the conflict, medical incidents - illness and wounding - and whether or not they were killed in action.
- Australian War Memorial - Researching A Person Guide
- National Archives of Australia - Personal Service Records
- Australian Army - Family History
Subscription sites such as Ancestry and My Heritage also collate Australian military records.
If your ancestor served in a conflict for a foreign military force please refer to our INTERNATIONAL resources page for more information.
MUSEUMS & ACADEMIC RESOURCES
Even though museums rarely contain specific details of ordinary people, they can give us valuable contextual information regarding the context of the lives our ancestors lived in. Institutions like the Australian War Memorial and specialist museums like The Australian Film and Sound Archive can provide vital contextual information in their collections and exhibits that can enhance our understanding into the times our family lived through and what life may have been like for them.
JEWISH MUSEUMS & ARCHIVES
- Sydney Jewish Museum - 148 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, NSW
- Jewish Museum of Australia - 26 Alma Rd, St Kilda, VIC
- Jewish Holocaust Centre - 13-15 Selwyn St Elsternwick, VIC
- The Archive of Australian Judaica (Sydney) is a collection of source materials relating to Jewish life in Australia from the origin of the Jewish community up to the present day. The material housed in the Archive consists of a variety of types including anything of an archival or ephemeral nature, which reflects the multifaceted nature of Jewish life in Australia, and its social interactions with the broader Australian community. We have a great collection on individuals, as well as, communities and organizations. The Archive is open from Monday-Friday from 9:30-4:30 in Rare Books & Special Collections at Fisher Library (University of Sydney). You can schedule an appointment to view materials by filling out the request form on the Rare Books website.
- The Australian Film and Sound Archive (Canberra) contains an extensive collection of audio and visual recording covering the full gamut of Australian life and history.
- The National Museum of Australia (Canberra) explores Australia's social history, highlighting key issues, people and events that have shaped the nation.
- Cowra and District Historical Museum (Cowra, NSW) displays history from this region including information on the local Army camp. This museum has an extensive collection of photographs showing what life was like for POW's interred in a camp like this. Cowra is around 400km from the town of Hay in central NSW, the site of the camp that was home to the famous Dunera Boys.
- The Museum of Freemasonry (Sydney) happily shares the secrets of this ancient society. Many Jews were Freemasons so this collection of archives, gallery and library could shed valuable light on your relatives life.
- Immigration Museum (Melbourne) is operated by Museum Victoria. It explores the many complicated stories associated with the immigrant experience. They also have an Immigration Discovery Centre, with helpful staff who may be able to help you find information on your ancestors journey to Australia.
There are also numerous historic houses, vocation specific collections - for example for police and firefighter - and local history collections managed by local history societies (see below). An extensive list of museums around the country can be found here on Wikipedia
HISTORICAL SOCIETIES AND LOCAL HISTORY RESOURCES
Most regional towns in Australia have local history societies. As they are usually run by volunteers the levels of assistance available to researchers can vary but many of them have a website where you can find relevant contact details. If you can't find a local history society for the town or region you are researching try the local tourism office. They can often connect researchers with local history experts.
These societies may not have documents related to specific individuals however they can be a great source of vital contextual information for your ancestors life.
Search for historical societies using your preferred search engine. This list on Wikipedia has links and information to some regional historical societies.
- The Australian Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) maintains libraries and archives in Sydney and Melbourne. The AJHS documents the Jewish experience in Australia, which began with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1778, and continued with Jewish involvement in all facets of the subsequent development and evolution of Australia. They are a valuable source of contextual information for family history research and their Journal is filled with fascinating research papers about the community
- The Jewish Historical & Genealogical Society of Western Australia is very active, with involvement in many local issues about Jewish history. They generally meet on the last Sunday of the month to hear a guest speaker or conduct a practical workshop and their Library is open at those times.
- Pride History Group (Sydney) is a not-for-profit community group that collects and preserves memorabilia and other information about lesbian, gay and transgender lives, politics and communites in the Sydney region.
- Regional local history societies - most regional localities in Australia have a local history society. They may cover a single town or a whole region. These societies can be a great source of information about the kind of lifestyle your ancestor may have lived when they resided in that area. Local history societies often have collections of old photos, newspapers and ephemera, as well as oral histories and stories that may not be available in metropolitan collections. Their interests are represented by the Federation of Local History Societies.
The Society of Australian Genealogists - SAG - was established in 1932. It is the oldest family history society in Australia. Their main aim is "the advancement of genealogical education" .
SAG has a research library located at 379 Kent St, Sydney. This library allows access to a huge variety of family histories and biographies, local & school histories and databases covering births, marriages, deaths and burials.
In the Library one can also access online databases such as Family Search (including the International Genealogical Index and Ancestral File), and subscription sites like Ancestry, FindMyPast, The Genealogist, British Newspaper Archives, Discovery (National Archives UK), as well as over 1200 electronic databases covering both Australian and overseas resources.
They run a regular program of events including webinars that can be watched at home. Subjects include DNA research, taking oral histories and writing up your research. They also offer a Certificate in Genealogical Research and a Diploma in Family Historical Studies if you wish to undertake further study.
Membership to SAG is available, they offer a range of books, CDs and other resources for sale and any donations made to the organisation are tax deductible.
STATE BASED JEWISH GENEALOGICAL SOCIETIES
Other states in Australia host their own Jewish Genealogical Societies.
You can contact conveners of these societies directly if you are in their states:
- ACT - Vernon Kronenberg - firstname.lastname@example.org
- VICTORIA - AJGS-Vic - www.ajgs-vic.org.au
President: Allan Jankie - email@example.com
- WESTERN AUSTRALIA - Jewish Historical and Genealogical Society of Western Australia, Inc. - jhgswa.org.au
President: Michelle Urban - firstname.lastname@example.org
- For all other states please contact AJGS.
- If you find a link is broken or no longer active (please state the link address and issue clearly)
- If you find a site you believe may be of interest to AJGS members.
- If you have any other feedback regarding our website.