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.

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You can then buy a historical certificate for $31.70 or a historical image for $22.50 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.

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.

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.

Our index records are copied from handwritten records created by the Registrar-General of the day. 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.

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

  1. Fill in at least one name
    • the person's first name and/or last name (for any event type)
    • either parent’s first name and/or last name (for birth and death).
  2. Refine your search, if required, or search using the built-in refined date ranges.

Results are shown as a set of the closest matches of births, deaths and marriages on the person’s name, followed by the parent or spouse’s name.

  1. Open a result to
    • make a purchase
    • view any additional records available with similar name details (including similar parent names)
    • bookmark the page so you can return to the record and similar name searches later.

If you refine your search using both ‘exact’ matches, the results will only show the person’s first given name (not additional given names) and family name.

If you're having trouble finding a historical record, use different details to refine 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 1919
  • 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 will show people whose names closely match, including parents.

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 1919
  • Father/parent's name(s): Gottfried
  • Mother/Parent's name(s): Maria

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.

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, in the words of a famous saying, you can try and try again.

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 one letter before the *.

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

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 one name—either one 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 if the details are correct:

  • Show 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 10 additional records found with similar parent’s names. These details are found below the products available for purchase.

Sorting your results

You can download the top 100 results for any search where results are found. The download link is found at the top of your results and will provide you with a spreadsheet you can use and manage.

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.

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
  • 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.