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Family history resources

A family tree with six sepia portaits arranged around a gum tree branch.
The Earl of Belmore and family. National Gallery of Australia

Family history records what are they?

Family history research sets you on a path of finding the traces of your ancestors in a wide range of records, both private and public.

Private records might include family bibles, photo albums, letters, diaries and, of course, family histories compiled by someone within your extended family.

Public records might include birth, marriage and death certificates, wills, census information, ship passenger lists, military records, court and police records, newspaper articles, cemetery headstone transcripts, parish records and so on.

Family history online resources: types of websites

This section is a bit technical but gives a good overview of the different types of online resources that will help you trace your Irish ancestors.

  • Gateways. Sites that are lists of links to other sites. Good gateways are continually updated and pruned - like well maintained gardens.
  • Record holders. Sites maintained by organisations that hold family history records. Typically these are institutions like archives, libraries and public records offices. These sites provide access to databases of their particular holdings.
  • Aggregators. Sites that provide access to a range of record-holder databases. Typically their pages are easy to use and faster than going to each database. Some are free, some are commercial.
  • Specialists. Sites developed by people who are passionate about one aspect of family history research. For example, sites on Irish convicts transported to Australia.
  • Communities. Sites that link people doing research on the same families (surnames), place of origin (Irish counties), type of ancestor (Irish convicts). Communities enable people to share and exchange information.

The sections below have links to these different types of online resources.

Gateway sites

Try these gateway sites for links to thousands of the best family history websites. All are regularly updated. They will have overlapping but not identical resources.


Developed and maintained by Australian professional family history researcher Cora Num, starting in 1997.

Irish gateways

United Kingdom gateway

  • GENUKI (free) – access a vast collection from the UK and Ireland Genealogy

American gateway

Key record holders

Record-holding organisations are continually increasing the records that available online. Many organisations are scanning their records so that you can access a digital copy of the record online.

Australian record-holding websites

Irish record-holding organisations


Commercial and non-profit databases that 'aggregate' or draw data from a range of sources including record holders.

  • FamilySearch (free) – hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, it includes Irish research wiki, free Irish online course, Irish birth, baptism, marriage and death records.
  • (commercial, membership fee) – originated in the US and has affiliates in Australia, UK. You can search for free, but need to join to see the records.
  • RootsIreland (commercial, register for free search, pay for documents) – Database of 17 million Irish records including birth, death and marriage. All but 8 counties online. Partial search for free, join for full search.

Your local public library or genealogical society may have subscriptions to these and other commercial genealogical websites.

Specialist websites

Sites that focus on and add value to a particular research area or that hold a unique set of records.


Websites where you can see what others are doing – often organised by surname or place.

Some of our favourites ...

No list is complete without favourites. Museum staff and The Heraldry and Genealogy Society Canberra like:


Our special thanks to The Heraldry and Genealogical Society of Canberra (HAGSOC). For help with researching your family history go to HAGSOC's research centre in Aranda, Canberra. HAGSOC has an excellent library collection and reading room.

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