National Archives of Australia

Megan
National Archives of Australia image Courtesy of NAA

National Archives of Australia image Courtesy of NAA

Sometimes finding information about your ancestors in Australia can be difficult.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts not all records can be found on the subscription genealogy websites.  Sometimes to find your elusive ancestor you need to find another way to source records.  It is a case of knowing where to look.  One of the great places in Australia for these records is the National Archives of Australia.

The National Archives of Australia is a testament to the rich history of the nation and actively encourage the public to explore their collections online or by visiting one of their reading rooms. The National Archives of Australia describe themselves as:

The National Archives of Australia can best be described as the memory of our nation – collecting and preserving Australian Government records that reflect our history and identity.

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So what can the National Archives of Australia offer you?

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Collection

The collection at the National Archives of Australia is a historical look at the time of colonisation until more recent times.  In regards to the collection, many of the more recent documents are still closed to public access.  The archives may hold the item but until it has been examined it will not be made available, although you may be able to request for it to be examined for a fee.

The collection includes:

  • World War Service Records National Archives of AustraliaDefence Forces Personnel Records
    • Army Personal Records
      • Boer War
      • WWI
      • WWII
      • Pre-WWI, Inter war, Post WWII
    • Air Force Personnel Records
    • Navy Personnel Records
  • Other defence records
    • Service pay records
    • RAAF accident reports
    • Australian POW records
    • Court-martial records
    • Repatriation cases (Boer War and WWI)
    • War gratuity records
    • Civilian service records
    • Army Inventions Directorate
    • Papua New Guine evacuees records
  • Immigration and naturalisation records
  • Passenger arrival records
  • Pile of old photos - 19th Century Photographs Who is in the PhotoOther records
    • Security and intelligence records
    • Arts and science records
      • Australian Broadcasting Commission
      • Commonwealth Literary Fund
      • Copyright, patents, trademarks
    • High Court cases
  • Photographs
  • Snapshot of the collection – Chinese Australians, Postwar Migration, Lighthouse Drawings, Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, Sinking of the HMAS Sydney, Wartime internment camps, and much more.

As you can see it is a wealth of information pertaining to Australia and its people but how do you find what you are looking for?

Record search

The search feature is great – you can do a basic, advanced, name, photo, or passenger arrivals search.  Let’s see how it works for your family history.

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Family History

Now how does this pertain to family history?  Anytime your ancestor had a connection with the government there was a record created – migration, naturalisation, service in the armed forces, voting, registering a trademark, working for the government.  The collection has these and so much more.  Check out their Researching your family page which contains guides to searching the archives for your ancestors.

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Let’s look at a couple of examples from my family tree that you can easily replicate for your tree.

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Basic Search
Fletcher Alderwin Brand, WWI Records, National Archives of Australia

Fig.1 – Fletcher Alderwin Brand, WWI Records, National Archives of Australia

Firstly let’s use my great-grandfather, Fletcher Alderwin Brand who served in WWI, as an example.  I entered his name and a date range of his life and had a number of hits.  I selected his WWI service record (see Fig.1).  When a record is open for access you will see View Digital Copy in the top right, select that and you will be taken to a digital copy of that record.  This file gives me a wealth of information regarding his war service – where he was born, how old he is, marital status, next of kin, date of enlistment, physical description, unit, location, and duties during the war, medals received – a wealth of information for any historian.

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Dudley Hilton Brand, WWII Records, National Archives of Australia

Fig.2 – Dudley Hilton Brand, WWII Records, National Archives of Australia

Now, Fletcher’s son,  Dudley Hilton Brand, served in WWII (see Fig.2).  From this, we can see the record is held in Canberra but it has not yet been examined.  There is an option to Request Copy – if you select this you are required to pay $75.90 in order for them to assess this document, and then provide you with a digital copy.  This process can take up to 90 days.

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Name Search
Sir David Brand, Premier Western Australia, 1959-1971, Search Results, National Archives of Australia

Fig.3 – Sir David Brand, Premier Western Australia, 1959-1971, Search Results, National Archives of Australia

This gives you the search fields – Surname, Given Name, Category of Records.  This time I will use one of Fletcher’s nephews, Sir David Brand, who was the Premier of Western Australia from 1959-1971.  Now on this search, I returned 134 hits both due to the common name, and the fact he is listed in many parliamentary records (see Fig.3).  I decided to narrow it down by putting Hon David Brand to reduce the hits to 3.  The first document is open to view, however, the others are not yet examined.  The bottom result is a photo that is located in Sydney.

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Photo Search
Sir David Brand, Premier Western Australia, 1959-1971 Images, National Archives of Australia

Fig.4 – Sir David Brand, Premier Western Australia, 1959-1971 Images, National Archives of Australia

I have again used Sir David Brand for this example, as I knew there would be images of him.  As you can see from Figure 4, there are 16 images in the results and whilst not all photos contain him, he is mentioned in the title of the image.

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Passenger Arrivals Search
David Brand, Passenger Search Results, National Archives of Australia

Fig.5 – David Brand, Passenger Search Results, National Archives of Australia

The passenger arrivals search allows you to search for records from 1898-1966.  There are numerous fields to either do a broad search or narrow it down – Family and given name, Ship/aircraft name, Year of arrival, Port of arrival, Port of embarkation, or Barcode.  Keeping with the “Brand” theme I’ve started, I search for David Brand with no other fields and got 15 hits (see Fig.5).

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Locations

The beauty of the National Archives of Australia is, whilst their National Office is based in Canberra, they have an office in every capital of Australia.  Whilst each state will have different holdings, and not necessarily the documents you want, a trip to the archives is a great experience.  Some of these National Archives are colocated with the relevant State Archives.

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National Office – Canberra
Address:  Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes

Tel: (02) 6212 3600

Opening Hours: 9am to 5pm Weekdays (excluding Public Holidays)

Cost – $2 Adult, $1 Concession and children over 5 years

Good to know before your visit:

  • Records need to be ordered before 12pm for next day availability.
  • As Canberra is the capital of Australia the record collection is vast including Cabinet, Federation, Prime Minister and other Government records, WWI and WWII service records, naturalisation and immigration records, trademarks and copyright records, as well as a vast photograph collection.

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New South Wales – Sydney
Address:  120 Miller Road, Chester Hill

Tel: (02) 9782 4900

Fax: (02) 9782 4999

Opening Hours:  9am to 4.30pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (excluding Public Holidays)

Good to know before your visit:

  • No records will be retrieved after 3.30pm.
  • Sydney has records dating back as far 1804 with a Deed of Title for Pitts Row.  There are also, post office records, customs, army, and navy establishments, and Government House records.

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Northern Territory – Darwin
Address: Kelsey Crescent, Millner

Co-located with Northern Territory Archives Service

Tel: (08) 8999 6890

Fax: (08) 8999 6905

Opening Hours: 9am to 4.30pm Tuesday to Friday (excluding Public Holidays)

Good to know before your visit:
  • Their collection spans 170 years of Northern Territory history including Commonwealth and Northern Territory Government records, community and personal archives, WWII records documenting the evacuation of civilians, European settlement and the administration of welfare for Aboriginal people from the 1920’s onwards, and a vast oral history collection.

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Queensland – Brisbane

Address: 16 Corporate Drive, Cannon Hill

Co-located with the State Records of South Australia

Tel: (07) 3249 4200

Fax: (07) 3249 4299

Opening Hours: 9am to 4.30pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (excluding Public Holidays)

Good to know before your visit:
  • Records are only retrieved on a Monday so if you are planning a trip you need to pre-order any records you wish to view.  Check out their online catalogue and submit a request in advance.
  • Holdings include a small collection that includes 19th-century colonial records, immigration, and defence in the 20th-century.

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South Australia – Adelaide
Address: Corner North Terrace and Kintore Avenue, Adelaide

Co-located with the State Records of South Australia

Tel: (08) 8204 8787

Opening Hours:  10am to 5pm Tuesday to Friday (excluding Public Holidays)

Good to know before your visit:

  • Records are only retrieved on a Monday so if you are planning a trip you need to pre-order any records you wish to view.  Check out their online catalogue and submit a request in advance.
  • Holdings include a small collection that includes 19th-century colonial records, immigration, and defence in the 20th-century.

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Tasmania – Hobart
Address: 91 Murray Street, Hobart

Co-located with Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office

Tel: (03) 6165 5607

Opening Hours:  9:30am to 5pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (excluding Public Holidays)

Good to know before your visit:

  • Their collection contains immigration, alien registration documentation, inwards and outwards passenger lists, lighthouse logbooks, army pay records, and architectural drawings of Commonwealth buildings in Tasmania.  The Australian Antarctic Division and the Bureau of Meteorology records are unique to Tasmania.

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Victoria – Melbourne

Address: 99 Shiel Street, North Melbourne

Co-located with the Public Records Office of Victoria

Tel: (03) 9348 5600

Fax: (03) 9348 5628

Opening Hours:  10am to 4.30pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (excluding Public Holidays)

Good to know before your visit:

  • You will need to order records in advance and allow up to 48 hours before your visit to this archives.
  • The majority of records date from Federation with a few 19th-century colonial records. Holdings include customs, postal services, defence and Aboriginal affairs records, Commonwealth departments, statutory bodies, royal commissions, lighthouses, naval vessels, courts and tribunals records.

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Western Australia – Perth
 Address: 384 Berwick Street, East Victoria Park

This archives will be relocating in late 2018 to Belmont.

Tel: (08) 9470 7500

Fax: (08) 9470 7555

Opening Hours:  9am to 4.30pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (excluding Public Holidays)

Good to know before your visit:

  • The collection in Perth dates back to the settlement of the Swan River Colony including migration, customs, postal, meteorology, civil aviation, Christmas and Cocos Island administration, veterans’ and Aboriginal affairs records.

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Interact with the National Archives of Australia

Social Media at National Archives of AustraliaCheck out their Social Media accounts.

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube

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Head over to the National Archives of Australia today and have a look around.  Don’t forget to come back here and let me know in the comments what treasures you find!


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6 Comments

  1. Tyler Redlev
    Tyler RedlevReply
    March 7, 2018 at 8:13 am

    This is a great service to people!!! I’m Turkish and in Turkey our govermental system started to offer services like family root tree display and etc… But this is a different concept and I think it’s necessary for someone to know their history in order take example from their ancestors.

    History of Australia is pretty interesting actually. The old tribal effects and the social balances of them are worth evaluating.

    • Megan
      MeganReply
      March 7, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      Hi Tyler

      We are very lucky in Australia that the Government has seen the value in opening up the old records of the country.  We do have a very interesting history even though it is only a very short one compared to Turkish standards.

      Regards,

      Megan

  2. Fred
    April 4, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Some good information to have especially if you have ancestors from there. All my ancestors as far as I know are from the US. And I only know back as far as my great grandmother. Never knew my great grandfather on either side. Does it cost to retrieve this records?

    • Megan
      April 4, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Fred
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Some of the resources are available free on their website, others do require a payment. It is normally a case of identifying the record you want and ascertaining from there whether it is free or not.
      Regards
      Megan

  3. Remy
    RemyReply
    April 20, 2018 at 6:16 am

    it is amazing to think how much information our governments are collecting on us.
    Australia has got a much more sordid past than most people would appreciate on face value so it is no wonder that the records are not made public until they are examined.
    Government records are a vital link to our past which we can’t afford to lose.
    cheers.

    • Megan
      MeganReply
      April 21, 2018 at 3:24 am

      Hi Remy

      The government certainly does have a lot of information on us!  I am so grateful that Australia has some of these great repositories that we can search to find original documents.

      Regards,

      Megan

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