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Explore Your Family History During Isolation

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by Gillian Ching (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane who loves exploring quirky places with my dog. Join me on my quest to find, experience, and share fun things to do and interesting places to go.Please subscribe if you enjoy the articles.
Published April 16th 2020
Walk in the footsteps of your ancestors
Have you always wondered about your family's' heritage and the relatives who have come before you? Maybe you have heard stories about those in your family who are famous (or maybe even have links to royalty) and the extraordinary people who unlock your past. Perhaps you are linked to a convict who forged part of Australia's early beginnings of settlement.

Maybe Genealogy is something you have always wanted to research but never had the time to undertake in more depth. Well isolation, my friends have given you the chance to dig a little deeper into your family heritage.

Interested? Where do you start? Well here are some simple tips to get you on your way.

1. Talk to your relatives
Re-tracing your family history could be a perfect conversation topic to kick off with your family either in person (with members of your household), on the telephone or via a video link call.

Your relatives will carry a wealth of information and stories - like school days, family events, quirky personalities. Don't worry, we've all got a peculiar Uncle Arthur lurking somewhere!

Photo courtesy Sheri Hooley


Amazingly, small pieces of seemingly useless information and stories can be most revealing.

2. Look through old family photos.

Remember when film and photos were developed. Well dig out those classic family wedding albums and embarrassing baby photos and ask questions about who's in the shot, where were they taken, what they were doing and possibly thinking and feeling.
Be sure to look for out for facial and body resemblances (particularly the eyes, nose and the hair type). It might answer questions like why you have curly hair or specific eye colour.

Memorial site courtesy Albany Creek Crematorium


3. Visit a Cemetary or Crematorium
Cemeteries and crematoriums are fascinating places and not at all as sad or depressing as you might think. They are rich in history and can be the resting places of your relatives. Many cemeteries have search engine online where you can put in a name and the memorial site details (including a picture) will come up.

Toowong Cemetary


When pandemic restrictions are lifted, you may wish to visit a site in person. Some (like the Toowong Cemetary) offer tours and others have offices where you can start your visit and get a map of the location.

4. Search Government online records
The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages is a wealth of information. In 1856, Queensland started compulsory registration of life events (it may differ between states). So they hold records of life events (births, deaths and marriages) that took place in Queensland between 1829 and present-day; that's marriages that took place more than 75 years ago and deaths that occurred more than 30 years ago. Enter a name and see what you will find.



Australian War Memorial service records free military records with personal service records of Australian servicemen and woman. Service records, also known as dossiers, are the authoritative source of information about an individual's military service. Service records contain information about them on enlistment and throughout their military service.

A service record usually consists of:
 an attestation paper showing:
 name
 next-of-kin
 employment / trade details
 marital status
 age
 place of birth
 physical description
 prior military service
 a service and casualty form "Form B103" listing:
 movements and transfers between units
 promotions
 when and how a soldier was injured
 details of medical treatment
 military correspondence

Military records


The National Library of Australia Australia also has extensive records to help your search.

5. Sign up to a heritage website
Online sites like My Heritage and Ancestry.com can help you trace your family generations back with a family tree. The sites help connect you to other family trees and provide hints of where to tailor your search.

You can also uncover your ethnicity with AncestryDNA. All you will need to do is access a kit, return a small saliva sample in the prepaid envelope and your DNA will be analysed at more than 700,000 genetic markers. Within 6-8 weeks, expect an email with a link to your online results. There can sign up costs to access some material.

6. Watch TV shows like "Who Do You Think You Are" for inspiration and search comparison

If you need some further inspiration, Australian and international versions of the series "Who Do You Think You are" discover the unknown ancestry of well-known personalities, Join them on their journey of unlocking their past often with surprising and even disturbing secrets. Past series have included respected journalist Jennifer Byrne, award-winning actress Marta Dusseldorp and science guru Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.

7. Find Where Your Relative Lived
With advanced systems live Google Maps, you can also look at the address and possibly houses, both nationally and internationally of where your relatives once lived. This really brings the world and the past to your living room

So why not start a conversation, dive into a search, build a family tree and see what your family story uncovers. You might be surprised by what you find.
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Why? Walk in the footsteps of your ancestors
When: Anytime
Where: Anywhere
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Excellent suggestions Gillian. My sister has made some startling discoveries.
by May Cross (score: 3|6489) 44 days ago
I am a member of My Heritage and Ancestry.
I truely recommend. The more you discover the more you want to find. It can become very addictive but very interesting.
by dkgas (score: 1|10) 44 days ago
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