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Where to start

The best place to start is at Queensland State Archives (QSA).

What can I find at QSA?

At QSA you can find records—such as letters, reports, telegrams, photographs, maps, architectural drawings—created by Queensland public authorities, that is organisations such as government departments, councils, universities, statutory authorities, boards and so on.

Deed polls

We hold deed polls (change-of-name records) that were registered with the Queensland Supreme Court.

What can’t I find at QSA?

QSA doesn’t hold birth, death and marriage certificates—visit the Department of Justice and Attorney-General—and we don’t hold records that weren’t created by Queensland public authorities. So, if you are looking for:

What’s online?

Only 3% of QSA’s collection is available for viewing online.

Use Image Queensland if you want to search only for digitised records (hardcopy records that have been scanned), or see our online exhibitions for images arranged by themes.

What’s not online?

Most of our records are not online. So while you can do preliminary research online, to view an archival record you will most likely need to order a copy or visit us at Runcorn.

What do I need to do before I start?

Gather personal details

If you’re searching for a person, gather as much information as you can about them, such as their:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • nationality or country of origin
  • date of arrival in Australia
  • places they may have lived, for example their town, county, or parish.

Read more about doing your family history.

Work out the connection with a public authority

To find a record at QSA you need to work out whether a public authority would have created or received a record about the person or topic you’re researching. Try asking these types of questions:

If you’re looking for a person:

  • Was the person ever in court or jail?
  • Did the person leave a will?
  • Did the person attend a state school?

If you’re looking for a business:

  • Is the business or company no longer in existence?

If you’re looking for a house:

  • Was the house a housing commission house or soldier settlement block?

The answers to these questions will help direct your research.

How do I research at QSA?

Do your preliminary research online by searching our records, then explore the collection, where you can:

  • find guides to researching different types of records
  • search indexes—collations of information (usually peoples’ names) from our most popular records
  • search ArchivesSearch—our online catalogue of records.

Archival research can be very time consuming and often involves searching through many records with no certainty that you will find the specific information you’re looking for. While this can be frustrating, it can also be exciting to find information you didn’t know existed.

Record what you find

Always record what you have researched, even if you didn’t find the information you were looking for, as it may save you time later. Establish a system of recording your information. The biggest mistake made by most researchers is not to keep accurate records.

How are archival records arranged?

Archival records are preserved in the original order the government agency put them in. In general, records are not arranged by name, geographical location or very specific subjects. Explore the collection contains indexes of records, most of which can be searched by name.

Can I access all records?

No—some of the records we hold are closed to the public.

The length of time a record is closed is listed under ‘Access Category’ in ArchivesSearch. The closure period begins from the end date of the record. For example, the item below was closed for 15 years from 14 October 1903, so it became open on 14 October 1918.

In some cases you can access closed records. Contact us so we can help you request access from the agency that created the record.

Ordering copies of records

You can order a copy online of a record listed in an index or ArchivesSearch by contacting us.

Contact us

Contact us if you need further help.

Archival research terms

Record – information of permanent and historic value, often in paper-based form (e.g. a letter, photograph, a map), but can also be a CD, a film or a digital file

Item – a single record or many records, e.g. an item may be a single architectural drawing, a 500-page leather-bound book, or a bundle of correspondence (letters, telegrams, reports)

Series – a group of related items created, received, or used in the same activity

Indigenous Australians

Our records contain names and images of Indigenous Australians now deceased. Terms found in the records reflect the period in which they were created. As such, some words and descriptions may be culturally insensitive.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated
3 February 2017

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