Have an idea of what you want to produce before you start working. You can always change your mind, but it would help you focus your efforts.
Do you want to trace a particular ancestor, or do you want to trace all your ancestors through every line?
Use the examples on this page to work out what kind of searching you want to do and how you would like to record what you find.
TIP: Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history researchers indicate they would like to include their extended family whilst others would like only to trace their immediate family back to their apical ancestors. Apical ancestor is usually the earliest documented ancestor and usually used for Native Title inclusion in a clan, nation or tribe.
Create a personal index card for each ancestor and family member
You can generate family trees and index cards using computer software and also place information online in family history software.
There are many organisations both voluntary and business managed for family history researchers to join.
Whether you use genealogy software, have everything on your computer in a spreadsheet, or on index cards in a box, make sure you take notes about each family member you discover, and update them with any new information you come across. Keep these in an order that is not only easy for you to search, but also easy for someone else to make sense of in case another family member wants to held out, start their own or take over the project.
A. Do you want to produce a "Family Tree", following a line of ancestors back through time? These will show the spouses and siblings of the ancestors, but largely ignore the "cousins". It is the most common and easiest form of a family tree.
The easiest and most effective way to do this is to follow the male line (father, grandfather, great grandfather, etc). Even if you're following your maternal line, you will still find better records for the males in the family (maternal grandfather, etc).
Tracing Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and South Sea Islander descendent records beyond 1900 may require using oral histories or family stories to track ancestors to specific employment on stations and farms.
B. Do you want to produce an "Extended Family Tree", showing all of the descendants of a particular ancestor? This will branch out to show all of the children, grandchildren, etc of a single person, and will extend to many different cousins. This will involve many branches, and might be more easily undertaken using genealogy software or some other computer program.
This type of family tree is popular with many Indigenous Australian and South Sea Islander family historians as maintaining extended family ties is still very common. It also helps visualise how and where relatives have branched from and is useful for explaining family and country connection to the younger generation. There is also a lot of free online software which allows people in different parts of the country to add and amend details about their branch of the family, including scanning and sharing photos and documents.
C. Do you want to produce an "Ancestry Chart", showing all of your ancestors through every line? This is like the Extended Family Tree in reverse, where the start point is the descendant, not the ancestor. Like the Extended Family Tree, it is wide-ranging and may require genealogy software to compile.
We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.