Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this research guide contains the names and images of people who are now deceased.

Before you begin

Talk to as many family members as you can. Family members will often have valuable information and firsthand accounts of events like births, deaths or marriages. Some really good tips to know at the beginning of this journey are:

  • Finding information and records can take a lot of time and effort.
  • You will probably need to research many different organisations and places to find information and records.
  • Make good notes from the start, so you can backtrack if you need to.
  • Be aware that you might come across records or documentation that are derogatory, offensive or distressing. Think about having some support around you; share the journey with family or friends.
  • Remember – just because something has been written down in a document or record does not mean it is the truth.

Collect or copy any relevant documents such as birth certificates, newspaper articles, letters or diaries etc. that you or other family members may have. This type of information will assist you with your research. You may like to ask the following questions:

  • Do I know my ancestors' first and last name, or any nicknames or aliases they may have had?
  • Do I know any birth, death or marriage dates?
  • Do I know the town or area they lived in?
  • Do I know if my family served in any wars?
  • Do I know which parish they belonged to, or to which particular denomination in which town?
  • Do I know if my family lived on an Aboriginal reserve, mission or station?

Write down as much information as you can about your family.

We recommend the material on the AIATSIS Family History Page as a very useful guide for beginners.

Map showing the distribution of the Aboriginal tribes of Australia

Detail from Map showing the distribution of the Aboriginal tribes of Australia [cartographic material] / by Norman B. Tindale.


Norman Tindale was an anthropologist based at the South Australian Museum. He wrote many First Nations family tree charts covering the 1920s to 1930s called the ‘Tindale Genealogies’. Visit the AIATSIS website for more information and to see where you can view these genealogies.


Aboriginal people do appear on Australian electoral rolls prior to 1967. Read more about the history of the Indigenous vote on the archived Australian Electoral Commission website.