How to Research Your Family History

This course provides a basic introduction to the main primary and secondary sources of information required to build family histories, no matter their country of origin. Whilst only English-language sites are used as case studies, the course provides the opportunity for a hands-on exploration of multiple websites and teaches an organised approach to searching and recording that can be utilised for other non-English country archives. The course encourages students to use state and local libraries and genealogical organisations. Students are encouraged to bring examples of family members they are trying to trace to workshop with the class.


  • Face-to-Face


  • Nick Vine Hall, (1994 ) Tracing Your Family History in Australia: A Guide to Sources, Victoria, Australia
  • Osborn, Helen (2012) Genealogy: Essential Research Methods, Crowood Press, London
  • Todd, Andrew (1998) Family History Nuts and Bolts: Problem-Solving through Family Reconstitution Techniques, Allen & Todd, UK (NB – 2015 edn now available)
  • Kenneally, Christine (2014) The Invisible History of the Human Race. Viking. USA


Please be advised that you will need to bring your own fully charged device (laptop or tablet) that you know how to use as well as the power cable for this course.

  • Overview of course; tips on referencing and saving sources.
  • The basic foundations for family history research - Births, Deaths, Marriages records, census and electoral rolls. Exploring Australian Births, Deaths, Marriages historical Indexes; what to expect in each state's records; early Australian census and electoral rolls
  • English, Scottish BDM; Ireland BDM and substitutes; census records; other countries
  • Related sources - Australian Parish records; UK and Ireland records; other countries
  • Australian naturalisation records; shipping records; Australian convict records
  • Some secondary sources - newspapers; cemetery records; the Ryerson Index
  • Recording, referencing, saving files - file structures; bookmarking; commercial family history sites; blog sites


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Have an understanding of the nature of primary sources of information that can be used to build family histories, including Australian Birth Death Marriage sources; Australian State Archives, Census and Electoral Rolls; Naturalisation records; convict records and military records
  2. Have an understanding of other sources that may supplement primary sources, for example cemetery records, newspaper sources, the Ryerson Index and online forums
  3. Have gained the skills to find suitable primary and secondary sources of information relevant to their own background to help build family histories
  4. Have gained some skills to record and save the results of their searches, in both physical files and computer files and to make more informed decisions about the usefulness of commercial family history software.

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