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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:

Upcoming events

    • 12 Aug 2022
    • 13 Aug 2022
    • 2 sessions
    • SAG Research Centre and Library, Level 2, 379 Kent Street Sydney
    • 13
    Register

    FACE TO FACE COURSE

    Would you like to investigate your family history but have no idea where to start or have you previously signed up to an online platform but felt overwhelmed by all the information available?

    The Society of Australian Genealogists, Australia’s oldest family history society, is excited to announce we will be holding a face to face intensive version of our "Beginners Practical Introduction to Family History” course at our library and research centre in Sydney.

    Prefer to do this course online? Click here for details of our 6 part online version of this course.

    Over the course of two days you will learn about:

    • Key tools - family history software platforms, file organisation, research plans
    • Traditional records (document based) research – types of records, locating records
    • Electronic databases – Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Findmypast and more
    • Oral History – preparation and techniques for interviewing family members
    • Other resources such as Family History Societies, online forums and education options
    • Introduction to DNA research including legal and ethical considerations
    • Various ways to chart, share and publish your findings, including privacy and copyright concerns

    While the course will focus on records available in Australia, North America, the United Kingdom and Ireland we will also touch on locating records in other countries and the skills you will learn can be applied to researching ancestors from anywhere in the world.

    Lead Presenter: Vanessa Cassin, SAG Education Manager 

    Skill Level: Beginner

    Morning and Afternoon Tea will be provided.

    There will be a one hour break for lunch. Please bring your own lunch. There are also plenty of cafes close to the venue if you prefer to purchase something.

    The SAG recommends the wearing of face masks at this event, however, it is an individual choice whether to do so or not.

    The will be no requirement to disclose your vaccination status in order to attend this event.


    To read SAG's Refund Policy for event registrations please click here

    • 31 Aug 2022
    • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
    • Your place
    • 18
    Register

    Christine will share her "Top 10" techniques for working with AncestryDNA. This session is ideal for those who are taking a first look at their AncestryDNA test or thinking about testing at AncestryDNA.

    Demonstrations and case studies will be featured in the session. There'll be plenty of time for questions. Reference material will be available after the session.

    Thanks to the Ancestry for supporting this event by donating an AncestryDNA test for one lucky participant.

    This session is limited to 25 participants.

    This session will conducted on through Zoom and will not be recorded. Participants should be available at the advertised time.


    Skill level: Beginner

    Presenter: Christine Woodlands 

    • 15 Sep 2022
    • 27 Oct 2022
    • 6 sessions
    • 15
    Register

    Six Part Online Course

    Would you like to investigate your family history but have no idea where to start or have you previously signed up to an online platform but felt overwhelmed by all the information available?

    The Society of Australian Genealogists, Australia’s oldest family history society, is excited to again offer our new six part online course “Beginners Practical Introduction to Family History”.

    Prefer to do this course face to face? Click here for details of a face to face workshop on 12 and 13 August 2022.

    Over the course of six sessions (two hours per session) you will learn about:

    • Key tools - family history software platforms, file organisation, research plans
    • Traditional records (document based) research – types of records, locating records
    • Electronic databases – Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Findmypast and more
    • Oral History – preparation and techniques for interviewing family members
    • Other resources such as Family History Societies, online forums and education options
    • Introduction to DNA research including legal and ethical considerations
    • Various ways to chart, share and publish your findings, including privacy and copyright concerns

    While the course will focus on records available in Australia, North America, the United Kingdom and Ireland we will also touch on locating records in other countries and the skills you will learn can be applied to researching ancestors from anywhere in the world.


    Lead Presenter: Vanessa Cassin, SAG Education Manager

    Skill Level: Beginner

    To read SAG's Refund Policy for event registrations please click here

    • 20 Nov 2022
    • 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
    • Your place
    • 23
    Register

    The Society of Australian Genealogists has donated 20 tickets to this course as a raffle prize for the NSW & ACT Association of Family History Societies "Riding the Waves of History" conference on 16 & 17 September.

    Purchase raffle tickets here https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/912590

    About the webinar:

    Christine will share her "Top 10" techniques for working with AncestryDNA. This session is ideal for those who are taking a first look at their AncestryDNA test or thinking about testing at AncestryDNA.

    Demonstrations and case studies will be featured in the session. There'll be plenty of time for questions. Reference material will be available after the session.

    This session will conducted on through Zoom and will not be recorded. Participants should be available at the advertised time.


    Skill level: Beginner

    Presenter: Christine Woodlands 

Past events

4 Jul 2022 WEBINAR: Introduction to Blogger - Telling your family story
25 Jun 2022 WEBINAR: Beginners Introduction to DNA
24 May 2022 WEBINAR: First Look at AncestryDNA
9 Apr 2022 WEBINAR: First Look at AncestryDNA
16 Feb 2022 COURSE: Beginners Practical Introduction to Family History
29 Jan 2022 WEBINAR: First Look at AncestryDNA
18 Jan 2022 Webinar: Legacy Family History Software for beginners
13 Jan 2022 Analysing Your Ancestry DNA Results
8 Jan 2022 WEBINAR: Beginners Introduction to DNA
7 Dec 2021 WEBINAR: First Look at AncestryDNA
27 Nov 2021 WEBINAR: UK Census Overview
2 Nov 2021 WEBINAR: Follow Up Meeting: Introduction to Blogger - Telling Your Family Story
23 Oct 2021 WEBINAR: Beginners Introduction to DNA
12 Oct 2021 WEBINAR: First Look at AncestryDNA
21 Sep 2021 WEBINAR: Introduction to Blogger - Telling your family story
10 Jul 2021 WEBINAR: Beginners Introduction to DNA
15 May 2021 WEBINAR: DNA Research Group - Beginners
12 May 2021 Analysing Your Ancestry DNA Results
6 Mar 2021 Family Tree Maker Beginners Course
20 Jan 2021 Analysing Your Ancestry DNA Results
16 Jan 2021 WEBINAR: DNA Research Group - Beginners
10 Oct 2020 WEBINAR: DNA Research Group - Beginners
25 Jul 2020 WEBINAR: DNA Research Group - Beginners
23 May 2020 WEBINAR: Family history software & charting – Family Tree Maker & Legacy
23 May 2020 WEBINAR: Family history software & charting – Introduction
30 Apr 2020 LECTURE: Convict records in the NSW State Archives
30 Apr 2020 WEBINAR: Convict records in the NSW State Archives
18 Apr 2020 GROUP: Legacy Software Users Group
4 Apr 2020 WEBINAR: DNA Research Group - Beginners
4 Apr 2020 FREE LIBRARY TOUR: Where do I start at the SAG library?
1 Apr 2020 WEBINAR: Putting your family history online
19 Mar 2020 LECTURE: Deciphering handwriting
12 Mar 2020 FREE RICHMOND VILLA TOUR: What's in the SAG archives (MIDAS)?
26 Feb 2020 FREE LIBRARY TOUR: Where do I start at the SAG library?
8 Feb 2020 GROUP: Family Tree Maker AM session
23 Jan 2020 FREE RICHMOND VILLA TOUR: What's in the SAG archives (MIDAS)?
18 Jan 2020 GROUP: Legacy Software Users Group
18 Jan 2020 FREE LIBRARY TOUR: Where do I start at the SAG library?
11 Jan 2020 GROUP: DNA Research Group - Beginners
7 Jan 2020 WEBINAR: Reviewing your research - get past that roadblock in your tree

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LOCATIONS

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

CONTACT US

+61 2 9247 3953 Office

+61 2 9299 5151 Library (during opening hours)

Email

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