Your family history

Last updated: 
15 January 2020

Many of our mob served in the Australian Defence Force and we have found out too late for them to get the recognition and support they deserve. But you can still find out about your family’s military history.

Where to start

Get as much information as possible about your relative. It can help if you are able to find details, including:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • place of birth
  • arm of the defence force they served with
  • approximate year of enlistment

Once you have their details, you can request a copy of your family members Defence service record. The National Archive of Australia or the Department of Defence may hold their service record, depending on when they discharged.

Once you have a copy of your relative's service record you can research their:

  • unit histories
  • their experience in the armed forces.

Some resources target professional researchers. You may need to already have some details in order to make the best use of these resources.

As you research, be aware that some of the resources may contain names, images, and voices of deceased Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples. They may also host content that shows aspects of war which some may find disturbing.

Records we hold

We hold medical and dental records. You can contact us to find these records for people who served:

  • in the Army and discharged before 1947
  • in the Navy and discharged before 1948
  • in the Air Force and discharged before 1952

We also publish nominal rolls. Nominal rolls are lists of:

  • the conflicts in which Australia was involved
  • the people who served in those conflicts

We have more detailed information on how to research a family member.

Defence archives

The Defence website has information on where to look for service records. The website shows you which organisation is most likely to have the records. Who you contact will depend on when and where the person served or discharged.

National Archives of Australia

The National Archives of Australia hold personal records for veterans.

They may have records for veterans who served:

  • in the Army or Navy during the First or Second World War
  • in the Air Force during the First or Second World War, the Korean War or the Vietnam War

The National Archives of Australia have locations around Australia. Their main archive is in Canberra. You may be able to get a digital copy of the record you are looking for. You may need request they copy and send the document to you.

Discovering ANZACs is a program from the National Archives of Australia. The website lets you explore the records of Australians and New Zealanders who served in the First World War or the Boer War. Where the information is available they provide a full profile and timeline of the persons history at war and afterwards.

The Commonwealth War Grave Commission

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission can help you search for war cemeteries, war graves and memorials. Their website also has a service to help you find war dead.

The Australian War Memorial

You can find free research guides at the Australian War Memorial.

These guides are for people who are researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans.

Their Indigenous Service page lists names of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans with confirmed service and indigenous heritage. It mainly lists those who served during the First World War. There are some names listed who served in other conflicts.

If you have established the indigenous heritage and military service of your family member and their name is not listed on the page, contact the Australian War Memorial and ask to speak to the indigenous liaison officer.

The Australian Imperial Force Project

The University of New South Wales in Canberra runs the Australian Imperial Force project. This is a database of the Australian Imperial Force. There is also a separate database for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies can help you to research your indigenous family history. Their website has a variety of tools and guides to help you get started in your search, or find out what to do next.

Trove digitised resources

The national library of Australia runs the Trove digitised resources. They host newspapers, images and other historical Australian media.

Births, Deaths and Marriages

Each state and territory keeps records of births, deaths and marriages: