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Researching South Australian history and genealogy

Are you just starting? Then here is the perfect article for you – How do I start my family tree. This article has links to free forms and guides you on the best places to start your research.

Now that I’ve got started, where do I look?

Many people say that it’s hard to research South Australian genealogy and history. In fact it’s not. It’s just a matter of knowing what exists, and realising that you won’t find everything online, or even in just one place.

Researching online

You can do a lot from home using online services, forums, facebook groups – some are free, some have fees.

These have loads of quality records you can search – indexes and original records – and many will have details on your ancestors. You can access the data in a variety of collections (e.g. Australia only, the UK records too, or even whole world collections) and pay in a range of ways – some monthly, some yearly, while others are pay-per-view.

South Australian Genealogy Facebook Group
RootsWeb South Australian Genealogy Mailing List
33 Free Websites for South Australian Genealogy
More Free websites for South Australian Genealogy and History
SA History Hub

You can’t do it all online


In fact it’s often quicker and you learn faster when meeting with others and getting advice, tips and help. And right here in South Australia you have access to many great resources.

Many public libraries have a Family History section, some even have family history volunteers on hand to help you. So be sure to ask your librarian and check out what your local library has in the way of genealogy resources.

National Library of Australia
State Library of South Australia
Flinders University Library
Playford Library
Port Adelaide Enfield Public Library
Tea Tree Gully Library

We also have active genealogy societies, who not only have records, but volunteers to help, and meetings to instruct & help you learn how to go about your research.

Adelaide Northern District Family History Group
Fleurieu Peninsula Family History Group
South East Family History Group
Yorke Peninsula Family History Group

Sometimes you need to do some shopping

Did you know that Australia’s only family history store is in Adelaide’s north-eastern suburbs? Here they are always willing to give advice and help you with your research. And they have thousands of historical books on CD, guide books, how to books, reference books, software, military history, heritage scrapbooking, charts and much more. So come and visit, or browse the products available.

Gould Genealogy & History
Gould Genealogy & History: Contact

There are a number of publications to help with your South Australian research.

Family History Research in South Australia  (book)
Family History Research in South Australia  (ebook)
South Australian History Sources (book)
South Australian History Sources (CD)
Biographical Index of South Australian 1836-1885 (CD)

Genealogy events

Attending genealogy events or courses is a great way to discover more of your family.

Unlock the Past runs various different types of events. From 1-2 day seminars, to expos, to genealogy cruises. There’s something for every researcher.

Unlock the Past Cruises

Unlock the Past also run genealogy cruises. That’s right, a genealogy conference on board a cruise ship!

And did you know that May is South Australia’s History Month? There are hundreds of events celebrating South Australia’s heritage and history during the month. Visit their history website for what’s on – you’re sure to find loads of interesting and inspiring events.

South Australia’s History Festival

And don’t forget the WEA and U3A, as both groups regularly run family history courses, so keep an eye on their schedules.

What records do I look for?

Birth, death and marriage records, census records, shipping and military records tend to be what people initially look for. However, there are many other records which can add detail to your research – including wills, electoral rolls, directories, education, land, criminal, occupational and hospital records to name just a few.

South Australian Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
If you want copies of BDM records, this is the place to get in touch with.

Archives are the place to go for original records. For the most part you won’t find these records online, or even indexed. And what you can find at an archive can be gold.  While there are state level archives, there are also religious archives, school archives, business archives, sporting archives and so on. Below are just a few of the many archives that you are likely to find useful in your research.

State Records of South Australia
National Archives of Australia
Anglican Archives (Church of England)
Baptist Archives
Catholic  Archdiocese of Adelaide
Adelaide Jewish Museum
Lutheran Archives
Salvation Army
Uniting Church SA Historical Society
Immanuel College
Prince Alfred College
Pulteney Grammar School Archives
South Australian Police Historical Society

While libraries, societies, and archives are all great places to look for records and help you with your research, don’t forget museums and other historical organisations too. These are also great sources of information and records.

Find and Connect (orphanages, children’s homes etc)
Historical Society of South Australia
History Trust of South Australia
Migration Museum
Oral History Association SA/NT
South Australian Army Museum
South Australian Boer War Association
South Australian Maritime Museum


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Alona Tester

Alona Tester


This is a guest post by family historian Alona Tester from Gould Genealogy. Based in South Australia she has 25+ years experience in the genealogy industry, and is a genealogy educator and blogger. She is the author of the Genealogy & History News blog, as well her own personal genealogy blog, Lonetester HQ.