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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 can't 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 other historical records.

This page explains:

You can then buy a historical certificate for $32.20 or a historical image for $22.90 online.

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.

Be aware that it wasn’t unusual for large families to have some children who were not registered at birth. Registration was difficult for some families when it required a full day of travel by wagon with young children in tow.

Don’t forget about the trusty old family Bible or the society section of old newspapers announcing engagements, births, anniversaries and obituaries.

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

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Make sure the name is correct

Make sure you have the person's correct name. This might seem obvious, but the name you have might not be the same as their registered name.

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.

People are often known by a shortened or common 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.

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 different name.

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 can't find a historical record, you can keep trying.

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Is the information in the index correct?

We try to make sure the information in the historical index is correct.

Our index records are copied from handwritten records created by the Registrar-General of the time. Sometimes the cursive writing may not have been read correctly when the information was copied into our index.

It is also possible that the information given to us when the event was registered—the original information—might not be correct. As historical records, the information on a historical certificate or image is what was recorded at the time of the event.

If you do find a mistake, please let us know 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.

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

  1. Fill in at least 1 name, either the
    • person's first name and/or last name (for any event type)
    • parent’s first name and/or last name (for birth and death).
  1. Refine your search, if required, or search using the built-in refined date ranges.
    • None of the fields are required, so you can try using as few or as many as you'd like.
    • The results will show people whose names closely match, including parents (for births and deaths) or the other party’s name (for marriages).
    • Results are sorted by closest match of births, deaths and marriages on the person’s name and then by parents’ name or by the other party’s name.
    • Marriage last name searches are not bride/groom specific, so searches will return records of either the bride or groom with that last name.
  1. Open a result to
    • make a purchase
    • view any additional records with similar name details (including possible siblings)
    • bookmark the page so you can return to the record and similar name searches later.

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If you're having trouble finding a historical record, try different details to refine your search so you are more likely to find the person you are looking for.

Exact match can be selected for the given names(s) and/or the family name of the person.

By choosing a ‘refine results further’ option you may:

  • use the built-in date ranges
  • fill in the date of the event (or just the year)
  • define a date range to search
    • start date (or year) in the 'date of event'
    • end date (or year) in the 'optionally range to' field
  • fill in at least 1 name
    • either parent's first name and/or last name (for birth and death)
    • other party's name (for a marriage).

If you're still having trouble, try removing or changing the details in the fields for the name of the person you are looking for.

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Search using the wildcard

You can also try using the wildcard symbol, an asterisk: *. This will return any combination of letters in place of the * symbol.

If you want to search for a person you think was named Unger, but you are not sure of the spelling, just enter ‘ung*’ into the ‘Last name’ field (and the date or a date range). Your search will find every last name starting with the letters ‘ung’, so as well as Unger you may also get Ungerer, Ungaterwen, Ung.

You can only enter the wildcard symbol after any letters (e.g. sm*)—not before (e.g. *sm)—and you must enter at least 1 letter before the * symbol.

You can use the wildcard in any of the name fields, but you can’t use it in the date fields.

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Find children of person(s)

If you want to search for children born to the same parents (or person), choose the birth or death filters and enter at least 1 name—either 1 or both of the parents’ first and/or last name(s).

For example, these details will find children born to the parents in the historical index and additional close matches:

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

When you open a result you can also view up to 12 additional records found with similar parents' names. Find these details below the products available for purchase.

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Sort your results

You can download the top 100 results for any search with results.

The download link is located at the top of the results and provides a spreadsheet you can use and manage.

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Content of historical certificates and images

The historical certificate or registration 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.

Historical source images

The historical source image you buy will show the information about the registration and may show compliance-checking notes done by the staff of the day.

Sometimes these records may show more information. For example, a marriage source image may have recorded:

  • that no record of a birth could be found at the time of registration—when a person’s place of birth was stated as being in Queensland
  • a death registration number for a parent.

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Index registration number prefixes and codes

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

The registration number is made up of:

  • year of registration
  • 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 and when the event took place.

For example, the registration number 1901/B2376 indicates that the event:

  • was registered in 1901
  • occurred in Brisbane
  • was the 2,376th registration recorded in Brisbane that year.

Some records may not display a prefix, and 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.

Learn more about registration numbers and prefix letters.

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