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How to start your research

The best way to start researching archival records is to prepare for your research.

Gather information

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 tips for doing your family history at Queensland State Archives.

Work out the connection with a government agency

To find a record in the State Archives you need to work out whether a government agency 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.

Research at Queensland State Archives

You can do preliminary research online by:

  • exploring the collection – read overviews of various subjects, brief guides on the records we hold, and the indexes we have created
  • searching our indexes – collations of information (usually peoples’ names) from our most popular records

Most of our records are not viewable 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.

Find out what records we have.

Archival research can be 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 keeping accurate records.

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, an item closed for 100 years, with an end date of 4 October 1946, will be open on 5 October 2046.

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

Deed polls

We hold deed polls (change-of-name records) that were registered with the Queensland Supreme Court before 1 February 2004.

Ordering copies of records

You can order a copy 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

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Our records contain names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 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
14 March 2017

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