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Searching our historical records—hints and tips

Our online historical research service is a great place to start if you want to trace a person's family tree—it's free to search our index online.

We only hold records of events that took place in Queensland, so make sure you know where the event took place.

You cannot view these records in person at the registry. Contact your local library, the State Library or Queensland State Archives if you would like to access these records in other formats.

You can then buy a historical certificate for $31.00 or a historical image for $22.00 online. As historical records, the information on a certificate or image is what was correct at the time of the event.

Before you start searching

Before you start searching, collect as much information as you can about the person and event (birth, death or marriage) you are researching—you will find the record you are looking for more quickly and easily.

You will need to know the name of the person you want to search for, and have an idea of when and where the event took place in Queensland.

If the event was registered outside of Queensland, contact the interstate or overseas registering authority.

Make sure the name is correct

The most important piece of information you should have is the person's correct name. This might seem obvious, but the name you have might not be the same as their registered name.

For example, people are often known by a shortened form of their name or their middle name, but registered under a more formal name, particularly in historical records. So, a person known as Jack—now often used as a first name in its own right—is likely to have been registered as John 100 years ago.

Is the information in the index correct?

We try to make sure the information in the historical index is correct—based on information given to us at the time the event was registered. The original information might not be correct and we cannot guarantee mistakes were not made when the information was copied into our historical indexes.

If you do find a mistake, please contact us and we will review the record and make a correction if applicable. Information will not be changed if the historical index accurately shows the information that was given at the time of registration.

How to search

To search the historical research service for an event, you need to:

  1. Fill in at least one name—either the person's first name and/or last name (for any event type)
  2. Filter your search, if required, or search using filter details only
  3. Results will be shown as a set of the closest matches of births, deaths and marriages on the event name, followed by the parent or spouse's name (if used to filter your search)
  4. Open a result to
    • make a purchase
    • view any additional records available with similar name details (including similar parent names)
    • bookmark the page to return to the record and similar name searches later.

Try to filter your search

If you are having trouble finding a historical record, use different details to define your search so you are more likely to find the person you are looking for. Adding more information will narrow your search, giving you more specific results.

For example, the details below will find results in the historical index based on a fuzzy spelling of the person's family name and parent's names:

  • Name of person: Gertruda Unger
  • Show births between 1829 and 1988
  • Father/parent's name(s): Gottfried
  • Mother/parent's name(s): Maria

While all other information may be correct, a minor difference—for example, if the first name is spelt Gertrud rather than Gertruda—will bring the same results.

The results shown are person-based and show the closest matches on the name, followed by the parent or spouse's name(s).

You could also try using a different spelling for the last name. Depending on a family's country of origin, the surname used in our example, Unger, could have changed over time and also be spelled as:

  • Ungerer
  • Ungarer
  • Ungare
  • Ungars
  • Ungers

Convicts transported to Australia often changed the spelling of their names to hide their past, and names were often changed to English. For example the Irish Ó Fearghail may have been changed to O'Farrell, Farrell or Farrelly.

If you search using only the person's family name and it is spelt Unger, results may not be found if you use a different spelling. For example, the details below will not find children born to the parents in the historical index based on the incorrect spelling of the person's family name:

  • Name of person: Ungare
  • Show births between 1829 and 1988
  • Father/parent's name(s): Gottfried
  • Mother/Parent's name(s): Maria

Children with the same parents can be found by choosing the birth or death filters and entering at least one name, either one or both of the parents' first name(s) and/or last name(s). For example, the details below will find children born to the parents in the historical index based on the correct details:

  • Show births between 1829 and 1988
  • Father/parent's name(s): Gottfried Heinrich August Unger
  • Mother/Parent's name(s): Maria Martha Busch

Also try using variations of the person's first names. Historical indexes sometimes use formal first names when the person was commonly known by a shorter name. For example:

Formal first names Short name
Charles Charlie
John Jack
Albert, Bertram, Herbert or Robert Bob, Berty or Bertie

Searching the historical index is free so if you are unsure or cannot find a historical record, in the words of a famous saying, you can try and try again.

Content of historical certificates and images

The historical certificate or image you buy will show the following information about the registration.

Birth registrations:

  • Registration number (including registration year)
  • First name(s)
  • Last name
  • Father’s name
  • Mother’s name

Marriage registrations:

  • Registration number (including registration year)
  • Last name of each party
  • First name(s) of each party

Death registrations:

  • Registration number (including registration year)
  • First name(s)
  • Last name
  • Father’s name
  • Mother’s name

The information shown on a historical certificate and the information needed to register an event may vary.

Index registration number prefixes and codes

Your search results will usually display registration details. This will include a unique number used by us to locate the full registration.

The registration number is made up of:

  • year of registration
  • index prefix letter or letters
  • the number.

The registration number provides additional information about the event, which may help you identify the specific record you are looking for, particularly if you are searching on a common name.

The registration number can give you an idea of where the event took place. For example, the registration number 1901/B2376 indicates that the event was registered in 1901, occurred in Brisbane and was the 2,376th registration recorded in Brisbane that year.

Some records may not display an index prefix, while some index prefixes have changed significantly over time, particularly in South East Queensland.

Remember that the year is the year the record was registered, not when the birth, death or marriage took place, which may be different.

Find out more about registration numbers and prefix letters.