Family history

Starting your family history

  • Talk to older relatives about what they understand about the family history. You will need to verify this information with other records and documents.

  • Start from the most recent relatives and work back in time, usually starting with Birth, Death and Marriage records.

  • Focus on one person or one family at a time.

  • Do some internet searching and consider using social media networks. Sometimes you can be lucky and find existing research about your family published online.

  • Check the library catalogue, local history catalogue and Trove for any books published about the family history or the places they came from. There may be mentions of the family in general histories about places - check indexes.

  • Watch our short Ancestry Library Edition video for search tips.  Consider joining a family history group or class through Genealogical Society of Victoria, Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies, neighbourhood house, University of the Third Age (U3A) or University of Strathclyde (UK).

  • Consider visiting the Newspapers & Family History Reading Rooms at the State Library Victoria or look up their family history research guides. Check out the Public Record Office of Victoria's family history guides.

  • Check with local librarians and local historical societies in the town, city or suburb where your relatives lived.

  • Note down where you have found information.

  • Be prepared that family history research can take a long time and can be difficult.

Ancestry Library Edition

Moreland library members can have free access to Ancestry Library Edition database at Merri-bek libraries. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you can access Ancestry by logging into the library catalogue with your library card number and date of birth. Look for the link on the left-hand side after you have logged in. 

Ancestry Library Edition has many types of records you can search, including births, deaths and marriages; immigration and shipping; directories; census and military records for many countries.

Sometimes you will get a small amount of information and sometimes you will get a link to view original certificates or records.

It is a good idea to search within a specific databases, rather than searching across the whole of Ancestry. Under Search tab, select Card Catalogue. You can then find specific databases by selecting record type and country. You can then search within that specific database eg Australian Births 1788-1922.

Watch our short Ancestry Library Edition video for searching tips.

Adoption and State Ward records

Research Guide to Adoption records (State Library Victoria).

Adoption and Wardship records (Public Record Office Victoria)

Adoption Information Services, Department of Justice (formerly FIND).
Apply for information about past adoptions.

Care Leavers Network (CLAN). Key support organisation.

Find and Connect provides information about orphanages, children's homes and institutions and where to find more records. You can search by suburb.

Vanish assists with finding records.

Births, deaths and marriages

These different sources will give you different amounts of information.
For privacy reasons you aren't able to search on records from recent decades.

You will only be able to see the full copy of the original certificate when you purchase a copy through the Births, Deaths & Marriages Office in State it was issued in.  

Keep your searching broad. If you can't find a combination of first and family names, search only on family name. Extend the years you are searching on. Many researchers discover that a person's registered name is different from the name they used in daily life. If a name might be spelt a different way, use an asterisk instead of some letters.

Note down Registration Numbers of certificates you are interested in. You will need to contact state offices of Births, Deaths and Marriages to purchase a copy of the original certificates using that number.

Cemetery records

Most cemeteries have online grave records you can search.

Guide to Victorian cemetery records (State Library Victoria).

Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust Deceased Search currently covers Fawkner, Coburg and seventeen other Melbourne cemeteries. 

Friends of Coburg Cemetery

Old Melbourne Cemetery 1866 - 1917 

Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust Deceased search. Currently covers St Kilda, Springvale and other Melbourne Cemeteries.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

International websites Billion Graves and Find a Grave.

Census records (United Kingdom)

Census records from England, Scotland and Wales have been digitised for 1841 - 1911 and can be searched on Ancestry Library Edition at library branches. Some Irish records are also available.

If you don't have much information about the family, select the last available individual census for the region, e.g. England 1911, and search for your family within that individual database. Then select earlier census databases (e.g. England 1901) based on the information you find from 1911.

If you know more information already, you could start searching 1841 census and move forward through the years (e.g. 1851, 1861, etc.) get more detail about the changes within the family through time.

Citizenship (Naturalisation) records

National Archives of Australia has records about people's immigration and citizenship.

Councillors & Council staff

You may be able to find your relative mentioned in Council newsletters, policy publications or annual reports. Council minutes and other local government records are archived at the Public Records Office. 

Historic local government directories also list councillors and key council staff in each municipality.  

Guide to Councillors Records (Public Record Office Victoria)

Past Councillors of Merri-bek (1996— )

Past Mayors of Merri-bek (1996— )

Tribute to Mayors Brunswick (1857–1993) 

Court records

Court cases in Australia guide (State Library Victoria) 

Justice, crime and law records (Public Record Office Victoria)

Death notices

The Ryerson Index indexes death notices and obituaries in Australian newspapers.  

Divorce records

Divorce Records Research Guide (Public Record Office Victoria)

Electoral and voter rolls

Electoral rolls will give addresses and sometimes occupations of adults who are eligible and registered to vote. 

You can search Australian electoral rolls 1903-1980 on Ancestry Library Edition at library branches. 

Brunswick Library holds some historic voter rolls from the 1960s to 1980s for the Wills electorate in the Les Barnes Local History Room.

State Library Victoria also holds historic electoral rolls.

Historic societies

Historic societies may hold information about some local families.

Coburg Historic Society has compiled the Merri-bek History Bibliography  that includes titles of articles appearing in newsletters of Merri-bek's historical societies. 

Broadmeadows Historical Society

Brunswick Community History Group

Coburg Historical Society

Moreland History Bibliography
To search, download PDF and use search function in Adobe.

Prahran Mechanics Institute keeps and indexes newsletters of all Victorian local history societies.

Royal Historical Society of Victoria has information about some Victorian families.  

Immigration and passenger records

Some passenger lists from historic ships are available on Ancestry Library Edition.

Passenger records and immigration (Public Record Office Victoria).

Child migrants Research Guide (State Library Victoria) 

National Archives of Australia also keeps migration records. 

Indigenous family history

Research Guide to Aboriginal Family History. (State Library Victoria)

Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung history in Merri-bek. Includes pre- and post- Contact studies.  

Koorie Family History Service at the Koorie Heritage Trust.

Koorie Records Unit at the Public Record Office Victoria.

Inquest records

Inquests and coronial records (Public Record Office Victoria).

Italian records

Coasit in Carlton have specialised Italian family history resources.

You can choose to search on Italian records only within Ancestry by selecting Card Catalogue from the Search Menu, and limiting by European and then Italian record databases on the left-hand side menu.

International records

In Ancestry Library Edition you can limit searches to the records of specific countries by choosing Card Catalogue from the Search drop-down menu. Options to limit by country will appear on the left-hand side menu.

Cyndi's List has links to a wide range of international records. You can search by country and type of record. Choose the letter of the country at the bottom of the screen.

International Settlers Group (Genealogical Society of Victoria)

Military or war service

National Archives of Australia holds documents about people who were in the Army, Navy or Air force in Australia.

Australian War Memorial holds documents about Australians who fought in wars.

Moreland Remembers World War I has information and links about local soldiers.


Local pamphlet files have information collected about some local families, buildings and organisations. Contact Adult/Information Services Librarian at Brunswick Library to access.

Royal Historical Society of Victoria and State Library Victoria hold manuscripts relating to some Victorian families. You can search their collections online for holdings.


Your family member may have been mentioned in a newspaper article, family notice or obituary.

Local newspapers

Some early 20th century editions of the Brunswick and Coburg Star and Brunswick and Coburg Leader are available for searching on Trove Historic Newspapers

Articles from the Moreland Leader (and earlier versions) from 1985-2005 were indexed on an Inmagic database - currently staff access only. (Contact Adult/Information Services Librarian at Brunswick Library.)

Moreland Leader articles from the 1990s onwards may be available through an online newspaper database at State Library Victoria, which also holds copies of local newspapers on microfilm (not indexed).

Local newspaper holdings (Moreland City Libraries)

Brunswick and Pentridge Press 18591861 
Brunswick LH stack

Brunswick and Coburg Gazette 19301932
Brunswick LH stack   

Brunswick Guardian 1930s/1940s
Brunswick LH stack

Leader Budget 1945–1948                             
Brunswick LH stack

Leader Budget 1950, 19631966                   
Brunswick LH stack

Brunswick Sentinel 1960, 1966–1995
Brunswick Les Barnes Room/LH stack

Brunswick Express 1968
Brunswick LH stack

Moreland Sentinel 19952001
Brunswick Les Barnes Room

Moreland Leader 20012018
Brunswick Les Barnes Room, Coburg Local History Room                        

Broadmeadows Observer1994–1995
Glenroy Library

Moreland Observer June 1995—               
Glenroy Library

Moreland Community News 1994–2008
Glenroy Library

Moreland Leader (Northern edition) 20082018
Glenroy Library

Community News 1983— 
Coburg Local History room

Coburg Courier 1968–June 1995
Coburg Local History room

Moreland Courier July 1995–June 2001
Coburg Local History room

Coburg/Moreland Leader 1983–2001
Coburg local history room. 

State/National newspapers

The Argus (1848-1957) and The Age (1854-1954) have been digitised and made available on Trove Historic Newspapers to search online.

State Library Victoria has online newspaper databases that include recent content from most state and national newspapers, as well as microfilm versions of major titles.

British newspapers

You can search British Library Newspapers (1732–1950) through State Library Victoria.

Oral histories

Talks on Brunswick (1981-2001) sound recordings. Check with Adult/Information Services Librarians.  

State Library Victoria, National Library of Australia, universities or other institutions may also have some oral history recordings of local people.


Historic photographs page has links to collections held across the country.

Postal directories (Sands and McDougall)

Some Postal Directories for Australian states are  available for searching on Ancestry Library Edition. See Australian City Directories.

Sands and McDougall Directories Victorian Postal Directories (1860s - 1974) are being progressively digitised by State Library Victoria.

Click on the time period you are interested in. Then click on the View button to access the contents of a specific edition. Click on links to specific parts of the edition.

You can look up a person and find their address (see Alphabetical Index section), or look up and address and find out who was the main occupier at that house (see Suburbs and Streets section). It could also list a resident's occupation.

Postal directory holdings on microfiche (Moreland City Libraries)

Port Phillip Directories
18391867 Brunswick Library

Sands & Kenny Directory
18571861 Brunswick/Coburg Libraries

Sands & McDougall Directories
18621883 Bruswick Library
18621872 Glenroy Library 

Balliere's Victorian Directory
18681881 Coburg Library
18681872, 1875, Brunswick Library 

Wise's Post Office Directory
18681900 (incomplete) Coburg Library
18831890, Brunswick Library 

Pubs and publican records

Cole-Tetlow Index at State Library Victoria.

Publican records (Public Record Office Victoria). 

Public Record Office Victoria also holds records about publicans' licenses.

Prisoners or Pentridge records

Prison records at the Public Record Office Victoria.

Also see history of Pentridge prison.

School records

Education records at the Public Record Office Victoria.

You can search for photographs of schools on Picture Victoria or Trove.

Victoria and its Metropolis: Past & Present (1888)

A large portion of the second volume examines the colony by district, which covers many districts throughout the state as well as the metropolitan area. Hundreds of biographical entries are scattered throughout and a comprehensive biographical index is included at the end.


Wikinorthia has some articles about local people and places. You can register for free to add your own material.

Wills and probate records

Accessing Wills and probate records at Public Record Office Victoria.