When conducting genealogy research, knowing where to find relevant information can sometimes be difficult. This is where a library can be of great assistance. The National Library of Australia (NLA), Canberra is operated by the Library Council as per the National Library Act (1960). In 1901 the National Library of Australia first opened and was relocated to Canberra in 1927 when Federal Parliament relocated.1 In 1960 it was formally separated from the Parliamentary Library and the foundation stone laid in March 1966.1 Prime Minister Harold Holt on opening the library stated:
We cannot understand the present or plan for the future without the knowledge of the past.1
The National Library of Australia’s collection contains a range of resources pertaining to the history of Australia and its people.2 It includes archived websites, ephemera, manuscripts, maps, music, newspapers, oral history, folklore, pictures and much more.2 Their major focus is the preservation and digitisation of records to ensure these resources are available for future generations.3 There are so many interesting items, It is easy to become sidetracked whilst looking for your information.
You can search the catalogue by keyword or by simply browsing the collections. They have a range of eResources including online journals and databases, including Trove. Trove contains digitised newspapers, government gazettes, journals, articles, books, pictures, objects, photos, music, sound, video, maps, diaries, letters, archives, archived websites 1996-now, people and organisations, lists.4
There is a wealth of information to be gathered on this site for genealogists.5 The getting started guide helps you plan a visit or utilise their online collections.5 They have a comprehensive list of all the family history resources they hold.6 These can be found in their Newspapers and Family History in the Main Reading Room.6 This document outlines every record you can find in their collection.6 It also provides links to websites that can be accessed from home.6
Many of the genealogy resources are now digitised which you can find in eResources under the subject of Genealogy.7 Some of the eResources require you to have a membership card.8 This can easily be attained by completing the online registration form and they will post a card to you.8 You must live in Australia to obtain a card.8 Use eReources to locate links to other sites, indexes, guides, and other family history resources available on the site.8 Many of the resources can be accessed online. However, some resources, for example, the library editions of Ancestry and Findmypast can only be accessed in their reading room.7
The following are items of particular interest to family historians and guides are provided to help you use these records.6
- Australian birth, marriage and death records
- Australian cemetery records
- Australian electoral rolls
- Australian Indigenous family history
- Australian Joint Copying Project (British government records relating to the Australian colonies)
- Australian maps for family historians
- Australian shipping and passenger records
- British and Irish maps for family historians
- Convict records
- Indian emigration passes to Fiji 1879-1919
- Newspapers and Newspaper indexes
The following collections may also be of interest, however, there are no guides provided for these collections:
- General Register Office: indexes to English and Welsh births, deaths, marriages
- The Griffith Valuation and index to the Tithe Applotment books (Ireland)
- Indexes to inquests and probate records
- Australian censuses and musters
- Australian parish records on microfilm (Society of Australian Genealogists collection)
- Directories and almanacs
You may also discover material relating to your family history in other collections of the library including:
Trove is a free service and is a real treasure trove of information for any genealogist with Australian links. It contains over 500 million resources: digitised newspapers, government gazettes, journals, articles, books, pictures, objects, photos, music, sound, video, maps, diaries, letters, archives, archived websites 1996-now, people and organisations, lists.9 The picture to the left is a screenshot of a quick search I conducted to show you its power. My great-uncle Robert Hilton Matheson was K.I.A. in WWI on 23 May 1918. This is just a sample of the memorial notices I found dedicated to him.10 If you need assistance with navigating Trove, head over to their help page. The have some great guides to help you find what you are looking for.11
I then conducted a search under Pictures, Photos, and Objects for Matheson Grocers. This was a store owned by Robert’s brother Charles Jardine Matheson, in Perth, Western Australia. Trove gave me a number of images as a result so I clicked on this image.12 Clicking on the image I was taken to the full information regarding this image on the City of Vincent website.13 In just a couple of minutes, I had pulled up so much information about my family.
The library offers a limited Research Service where librarians can assist you in locating resources and utilising their equipment.14 Their Ask a Librarian program allows you to call or complete the online form to ask questions.15 They can help with finding and accessing resources in their collection and to provide research tips.15 They cannot assist by conducting extensive research on your behalf and suggest you contact a professional genealogist.16
Visiting the Library
The National Library of Australia is located in Parkes Place, Canberra ACT 2600. It is open 7 days per week except for Good Friday and Christmas Day, however, the reading rooms are closed on all public holidays.17 For more information regarding opening hours look here. I personally recommend researching online exactly what you would like to see at the library prior to attending. That way you don’t waste valuable time. They have a number of different reading rooms and gallery’s. It would be wise to know where your content is located prior to your visit.
- Main Reading Room
- you can collect a membership card
- access computers and the internet
- access to their general collection of published materials
- Special Collections Reading Room
- access to computers and the internet
- use audio equipment to listen to oral histories and folklore
- access to the material contained in the picture, manuscripts, maps, oral history, music, ephemera, and rare printed collections.
- Petherick Reading Room
- this room is co-located with the Special Collections Reading Room
- it is dedicated to advanced researchers only, who are required to apply for a special card to access this area for the duration of their research project.
- The Asian Collections Reading Room
- this collection includes Asian language books, journals, electronic resources and databases.
- Treasures Gallery
- Free tours are conducted daily at 11.30am
- Highlights of this gallery include The Blaeu Map, Henry Lawson’s Fobwatch, 1967 Referendum, Minature Books, and Bligh’s notebooks, and so much more.
- Exhibition Gallery
- this is where special events are conducted by the library including, but not limited to, book launches, music performances, special exhibits.
- National Library Bookshop
- a collection of books and other merchandise published by the library as well as other items with Australian content with purchases going towards supporting the ongoing work of the library.
- Bookplate Cafe
- after your hours spent walking around the collections and researching you will require some refreshments.
Phone: +61 (0)2 6262 1111
The National Library of Australia can be of great assistance to you in researching your Australian ancestors. Or just learning more about Australia as a nation. If you have an ancestor who was in Australia you may find something related to them on this valuable site. Trove is well worth looking at even just to explore what was making news at any given time around the country. If you want to find your ancestors or brush up on your history have a look today.
So what have you got to lose? Take a look through their vast collection today and you may just find some interesting stories about your family! Come back and tell me what you find.
- 1. National Library of Australia, ‘History of the Library’, https://www.nla.gov.au/history-of-the-library, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 2. National Library of Australia, ‘Collections’, https://www.nla.gov.au/collections, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 3. National Library of Australia, ‘Preserving Our Collections’, https://www.nla.gov.au/preserving-our-collections, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 4. National Library of Australia, ‘Catalogue’, https://catalogue.nla.gov.au, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 5. National Library of Australia, ‘Getting Started’, https://www.nla.gov.au/research-guides/family-history/getting-started, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 6. National Library of Australia, ‘Family History Sources’, https://www.nla.gov.au//sites/default/files/family_history_sources_in_nfh_zone_2015_v1.pdf, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 7. National Library of Australia, ‘eResources’, https://www.nla.gov.au/app/eresources/, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 8. National Library of Australia, ‘Get a library card’, https://www.nla.gov.au/getalibrarycard/, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 9. National Library of Australia, ‘Trove’, https://trove.nla.gov.au, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 10. “Family Notices”, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954) 14 June 1918: 19. Web. 22 Jan 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37451046>.
- 11. National Library of Australia, ‘Trove Support Zone’, http://help.nla.gov.au/trove/trove-support-zones, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 12. National Library of Australia, ‘Trove’, https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/195979455?q=matheson+grocers&c=picture&versionId=214559129, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 13. City of Vincent, ‘Charles Matheson, founder of CJ Matheson Grocer on his motorbike outside his shop at 298 Oxford Street’, Leederville’, http://photosau.com.au/Vincent/scripts/ExtSearch.asp?SearchTerm=PH01848, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 14. National Library of Australia, ‘Reader Services Policy’, http://www.nla.gov.au/policy-and-planning/reader-services-policy, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 15. National Library of Australia, ‘Ask a Librarian’, http://www.nla.gov.au/askalibrarian, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 16. National Library of Australia, ‘Research Services’, https://www.nla.gov.au/research-guides/family-history/research-services, Accessed 22 January 2018.
- 17. National Library of Australia, ‘Opening Hours’, http://www.nla.gov.au/visit-us/opening-hours, Accessed 22 January 2018.