Tracing Aboriginal Ancestry

I was recently asked to try and trace the ancestry of a mixed race Australian whose grandmother was half Indigenous Australian and half white Australian, born in 1920.

This was the first time I’d been tasked with researching Aboriginal ancestry and I was somewhat daunted by the thought of so little recorded information being available. Along this journey I learned that from 1910 through to 1970, the Australian Government forcibly removed children from Aboriginal communities, supposedly to better educate and improve their quality of life.


I came across information about the research done by Norman Tindale, an anthropologist who was an advocate of assimilating mixed race aboriginals and dispersing into the mainstream population of white Anglo European. Tindale was responsible for identifying over 50,000 full blood and mixed race aboriginals Australia wide, producing genealogical charts, tracing back to the 1860’s and 1870’s.

In addition to these genealogical charts, Tindale and his associates produced data cards which held more information about either the community, the place or the individual. The original charts and data cards are held at the South Australian Museum, http://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/collections/information-resources/archives/tindale-dr-norman-barnett-aa-338 but copies are held in each state and are available to researchers, providing they have a direct link to Aboriginal ancestors or have written permission by the individual involved.

Privacy regulations about adoptions and the very sensitive nature of not wanting to cause distress within the Aboriginal culture, would deter most from attempting to unravel the past of Indigenous individuals. However, once access has been granted to the vast Tindale collections and the Government regulation to include Aboriginals in census and electoral rolls from the 1960’s, the tracing of aboriginal ancestry becomes less daunting. An explanation of how Tindale recorded information on his charts can be found here and is well worth reading.  http://pressfiles.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/n4160/html/ch09.xhtml?referer=4160&page=13

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