Locating living people

The Immigration Museum regularly receives requests about locating living people and, although it can often be difficult, there are a number of resources that might help you to find them.

For those that immigrated here in the mid-20th century, the first step would be to order their immigration records, which are held by the National Archives of Australia (NAA). This will give you information about their immigration and may give some indication of where they went when they arrived in Australia. These documents might then allow you to know where to search for further information in electoral rolls, public registries and other resources.

The National Archives website has online indexes, which feature a percentage of records in their collection. A step by step guide to using these indexes and ordering documents can be found on our quick guide to passenger lists infosheet.

Family in front of house
Newly Arrived Migrant Family Standing Near Temporary Accommodation, Ringwood East, 1955

Electoral rolls list all the names and addresses of registered voters within Australia. An electronic copy of the current electoral roll is available for public inspection at your local AEC office, but please note it is not permitted to copy, record or photograph any information from the electoral roll.

Historic electoral rolls can be accessed through Ancestry Library Edition, available at the State Library, many local libraries and the Immigration Discovery Centre.

Copies of Births, Deaths and Marriages certificates may reveal useful personal information and allow you to trace your relative’s descendants. Births, deaths and marriage registries are run by different government departments in each state and some have online indexes available for family research.

A simple search of the telephone directories may reveal the location of relatives. The White Pages is available online or you may wish to peruse hardcopies, which are often available at state, and sometimes local, libraries.

Family in front of house
Man, Woman & Two Girls, Backyard, Ukrainian Christmas Day, Newport, 1951

If your relatives belong to a specific migrant community, a relevant community organisation may be able to give you advice about finding them.

Search digitised newspapers at the National Library of Australia’s Trove website for mentions of their name. With hundreds of national, state and local newspapers digitised from 1803 to 1954, you may find a mention of them.

There may be an online bulletin board for the ship your relative came on or a migrant camp where they may have stayed. Many people find each other through such forums so it might be a great place to throw your question out to the wider world.

Family on a bench
Mother, Boy & Girl Sitting on Public Seat, Middle Park, 1949

Doing an online search for their names might reveal something. While it sounds obvious, many don’t think of it! Lots of people are online these days with personal websites, blogs, social networking, business websites and so forth.

Various organisations have tracing services that may, in certain circumstances, be able to locate missing family members. Some of them are listed online here.

Further resources

Post World War II Immigration in Photographs on Museums Victoria Collections

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