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How do I research my family history?

Researching your family history can be a wonderful hobby but it is worth learning how to do it well, so that you don’t end up researching the wrong families!

The process of researching your family history involves collecting evidence from government and church records and other documents which demonstrate how people are related to each other. You start with yourself and find documents that demonstrate who your parents are, then you look for documents that demonstrate who their parents were – and you work backwards in time. As you do this, you also collect stories about your family and hopefully photos and other memorabilia.

Finding the right documents and evidence is the challenging part, because it varies by location and documents can sometimes be scarce. Interpreting the documents can also be a challenge.

The Society has been helping people trace their family history for over 85 years. We collect documents and other resources in the library and archives for you to use, and hold classes to teach you how to research. Check out our events calendar for what’s on.

While there are a lot of materials online through sites such as Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast and government websites, not everything is available online. Libraries such as ours are still a very important place to visit if you are researching your family history.

To record your family history and the progress of your research, most people use family tree charts and some people find family history software is useful. We sell charts and workbooks, and we have software groups which meet regularly to provide support. Their meeting dates are in the Upcoming Events section.

If you would like to start researching your family history, visit our library and talk to one of our volunteers. They would be happy to help you get started. We also run courses for beginners, which you will find in our events calendar.

Image: Candelo Church of England, Candelo NSW, SAG Manuscript and Image Collection, Item 5/588

We recommend the following events if you are just starting out with your family history:

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Library 2/379 Kent St, Sydney NSW 2000

Archives/Offices 120 Kent St, Sydney NSW 2000

Gadigal Land

Location map

See our hours of opening for each building.

NSW Charitable Fundraising No. CFN/26276


+61 2 9247 3953 Office

+61 2 9299 5151 Library (during opening hours)


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