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Local and family history

Renaming Merri-bek

Merri-bek City Council was formerly known as Moreland City Council. To find out more information about the history of the name "Moreland" and local Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung history, please visit our Conversations Merri-bek website

Starting your family history

If you are thinking about starting to investigate or record your family history you should consider the following options:

  • Talk to older relatives about what they understand about the family history. You will need to verify this information with other records and documents.
  • Start from the most recent relatives and work back in time, usually starting with Birth, Death and Marriage records.
  • Focus on one person or one family at a time.
  • Find search tips by watching our short Ancestry Library Edition video on our Merri-bek Libraries Youtube channel.
  • Do some internet searching and consider using social media networks. Sometimes you can be lucky and find existing research about your family published online.
  • Check with local librarians and local historical societies in the town, city or suburb where your relatives lived.
  • Note down where you have found information.
  • Be prepared that family history research can take a long time and can be difficult.

There are many resources available to assist you in finding your family history. You can check the following websites for any books published about the family history or the places they came from. There may be mentions of the family in general histories about places, try checking the indexes.

You can also consider joining a family history group or class. You can find out more about this:

You can also consider visiting the State Library's Newspapers and Family History Reading Rooms. You can find out more about this resource on the State Library Victoria website. You could also use the State Library Victoria family history research guide tool on the State Library Victoria website.

Another option is to check out the family history guides on the Public Record Office Victoria website.

Ancestry Library Edition

Merri-bek library members can have free access to Ancestry Library Edition database at Merri-bek Libraries. You will need to visit one of the libraries in person to use the Ancestry Library website.

Ancestry Library Edition has many types of records you can search, including births, deaths and marriages, immigration and shipping, directories, census, and military records for many countries.

Sometimes you will get a small amount of information and sometimes you will get a link to view original certificates or records.

It is a good idea to search within a specific databases, rather than searching across the whole of Ancestry. Under Search tab, select Card Catalogue. You can then find specific databases by selecting record type and country. You can then search within that specific database e.g. Australian Births 1788-1922.

You can learn our search tips by watching a short Ancestry Library Edition video on our Merri-bek Libraries Youtube channel.

Births, deaths and marriages

  • These different sources will give you different amounts of information.
    For privacy reasons you aren't able to search on records from recent decades.

  • You will only be able to see the full copy of the original certificate when you purchase a copy through the Births, Deaths & Marriages Office in the State it was issued in.

    Keep your searching broad. If you can't find a combination of first and family names, search only on family name. Extend the years you are searching on. Many researchers discover that a person's registered name is different from the name they used in daily life. If a name might be spelled a different way, use an asterisk instead of some letters.

    Note down Registration Numbers of certificates you are interested in. You will need to contact state offices of Births, Deaths and Marriages to purchase a copy of the original certificates using that number.

Records relating to children

Indigenous family history

Travel, Immigration and Citizenship

Military or war service

Records relating to death

Court, legal and prison records

Electoral, voting and council records

  • Electoral rolls will give addresses and sometimes occupations of adults who are eligible and registered to vote.

    You can search Australian electoral rolls 1903-1980 on Ancestry Library Edition at library branches.

    Brunswick Library holds some historic voter rolls from the 1960s to 1980s for the Wills electorate in the Les Barnes Local History Room.

    State Library Victoria also holds historic electoral rolls.

  • You may be able to find your relative mentioned in Council newsletters, policy publications or annual reports. Council minutes and other local government records are archived at the Public Records Office.

    Historic local government directories also list councillors and key council staff in each municipality.

Newspapers and Postal directories

Your family member may have been mentioned in a newspaper article, family notice or obituary.

  • Some early 20th century editions of the Brunswick and Coburg Star and Brunswick and Coburg Leader are available for searching on Trove Historic Newspapers

    Articles from the Merri-bek Leader (and earlier versions) from 1985-2005 were indexed on an Inmagic database - currently staff access only. (Contact Adult/Information Services Librarian at Brunswick Library.)

    Merri-bek Leader articles from the 1990s onwards may be available through an online newspaper database at State Library Victoria, which also holds copies of local newspapers on microfilm (not indexed).

    • Brunswick and Pentridge Press 1859–1861
    • Brunswick and Coburg Gazette 1930–1932
    • Brunswick Guardian 1930s/1940s
    • Leader Budget 1945–1948; 1950, 1963–1966
    • Brunswick Sentinel 1960, 1966–1995
    • Brunswick Express 1968
    • Merri-bek Sentinel 1995–2001
    • Merri-bek Leader 2001–2018
    • Community News 1983—
    • Coburg Courier 1968–June 1995
    • Merri-bek Courier July 1995–June 2001
    • Coburg/Merri-bek Leader 1983–2001
    • Merri-bek Leader 2001–2018
    • Broadmeadows Observer 1994–1995
    • Merri-bek Observer June 1995—
    • Merri-bek Community News 1994–2008
    • Merri-bek Leader (Northern edition) 2008–2018
  • The Argus (1848-1957) and The Age (1854-1954), as well as many other newspapers, have been digitised and made available on Trove Historic Newspapers to search online.

    State Library Victoria has online newspaper databases that include recent content from most state and national newspapers, as well as microfilm versions of major titles.

  • You can search British Library Newspapers (1732–1950) through State Library Victoria.

Some Postal Directories for Australian states are available for searching on Ancestry Library Edition. This can be accessed by logging into the Ancestry Library website. See Australian City Directories.

  • Sands and McDougall Directories Victorian Postal Directories (1860s - 1974) are being progressively digitised by State Library Victoria.

    Click on the time period you are interested in. Then click on the View button to access the contents of a specific edition. Click on links to specific parts of the edition.

    You can look up a person and find their address (see Alphabetical Index section), or look up and address and find out who was the main occupier at that house (see Suburbs and Streets section). It could also list a resident's occupation.

  • Port Phillip Directories
    1839–1867 Brunswick Library

    Sands & Kenny Directory
    1857–1861 Brunswick and Coburg Libraries

    Sands & McDougall Directories
    1862–1883 Brunswick Library
    1862–1872 Glenroy Library

    Balliere's Victorian Directory
    1868–1881 Coburg Library
    1868–1872, 1875, Brunswick Library

    Wise's Post Office Directory
    1868–1900 (incomplete) Coburg Library
    1883–1890, Brunswick Library

Manuscripts and Oral Histories

  • Local pamphlet files have information collected about some local families, buildings and organisations. Contact Adult/Information Services Librarian at Brunswick Library to access.

    Royal Historical Society of Victoria and State Library Victoria hold manuscripts relating to some Victorian families. You can search their collections online for holdings.

  • Talks on Brunswick (1981-2001) sound recordings. Check with Adult/Information Services Librarians.

    State Library Victoria, National Library of Australia, universities or other institutions may also have some oral history recordings of local people.

International records

  • In Ancestry Library Edition you can limit searches to the records of specific countries by choosing Card Catalogue from the Search drop-down menu. Options to limit by country will appear on the left-hand side menu.

    • Cyndi's List has links to a wide range of international records. You can search by country and type of record. Choose the letter of the country at the bottom of the screen.
    • International Settlers Group (Genealogical Society of Victoria)
  • Census records from England, Scotland and Wales have been digitised for 1841 - 1911 and can be searched on Ancestry Library Edition at library branches. Some Irish records are also available.

    If you don't have much information about the family, select the last available individual census for the region, e.g. England 1911, and search for your family within that individual database. Then select earlier census databases (e.g. England 1901) based on the information you find from 1911.

    If you know more information already, you could start searching 1841 census and move forward through the years (e.g. 1851, 1861, etc.) get more detail about the changes within the family through time.

  • The Italian Historical Society in Carlton have specialised Italian family history resources.

    You can choose to search on Italian records only within Ancestry by selecting Card Catalogue from the Search Menu, and limiting by European and then Italian record databases on the left-hand side menu

Historic Societies

Research the history of your house

Learn how you can find out about the history of your house.

Local history groups

There are three historical societies dedicated to researching and preserving the history and historic buildings in the Merri-bek area.

Broadmeadows Historical Society

This group covers suburbs on the north of Merri-bek, including Glenroy. You can find out more on the Broadmeadows Historical Society website.

Mailing address: PO Box 3083, Broadmeadows 3047

Brunswick Community History Group

This group covers Brunswick suburbs. You can find out more on the Brunswick Community History Group website.

Mailing address: PO Box 8, Brunswick 3056

Coburg Historical Society

This group covers Coburg and Pascoe Vale suburbs. You can find out more on the Coburg Historical Society website.

Mailing address: PO Box 295, Pascoe Vale South, 3044

Pubs and publican records

Historic photographs

There are many places to search online for historic photographs of Merri-bek. You can also find images in local history books, newsletters and newspapers. Many local, state and national institutions also have photographs of the local area that haven't been digitised or put online.

Churches or other local community organisations might also have private archives of photographs. You can contact these organisations to search their local files if you can't find images online

Before using photographs you must be aware of copyright restrictions.

  • Jubilee history of Brunswick.  Photograhs of early Brunswick and surrounds start on page 44. Includes many early businesses on Sydney Road. 

  • The Moreland City Libraries Local History Catalogue includes series of local Brunswick images collected by Cr. Dollman before 1938 and converted to glass slides to celebrate the centenary of Brunswick.  There are also images and content from other local suburbs.

  • Pictorial Brunswick photographic album put together by Brunswick Historical Society to celebrate the centenary in 1939.  

  • Picture Victoria website hosts about 3000 historic images of Merri-bek’s suburbs held by Merri-bek City Libraries and Coburg Historic Society. Most images are taken before 1955 and are out of copyright. To limit searches to local content, choose Advanced Search function and select Merri-bek City Libraries from the drop-down menu.

  • Public Record Office of Victoria has a number of photographic collections including 1956 Olympics, public transport and school buildings.

    You can also browse themed albums and galleries through the PROV collection on FLICKR.

  • Royal Historical Society of Victoria has over 30,000 images of Melbourne that date back to 1850s, including portraits, street scenes etc. Only a small selection of images held by the Society are online.

  • The Digital Image Pool has 200,00 historic images of Victoria you can search and download in high-resolution for free. For high-resolution downloads, click on the image and see the small 'Download a high-res image' at the bottom of the page.  

  • The Victorian heritage database includes images of historic buildings in Merri-bek. Can be searched by municipality.

  • Trove is combined search site for collections of many state and national libraries and museums such as the State Library of Victoria, Museums Victoria and Australian War Memorial. It also searches Flickr and Picture Victoria collection.

    To limit searching to Australian content click the 'Australian content’ box at the top of the screen before searching. Check copyright restrictions for each imageContact the holding library or museum if you need high-resolution copies.

  • Victorian Collections is a portal site to collections of small local museums across Victoria.  

  • Wikinorthia has a small number of photographs posted by local libraries and community members as part of articles of local interest.

  • CoAsIt Italian Historical Society has an online photographic collection of the Italian Historical Society in Carlton.

  • Broadmeadows Historical Society has an online gallery of photographs. There is also a Museum of Broadmeadows which is located in the Broadmeadows Town Park opposite to the Shopping Centre on Pearcedale Parade.

Walking tours

People’s History of Brunswick

You can explore the local history of Brunswick with these self-guided audio walking tours. Use your smartphone to explore the rich history of social struggle and political organising with these self-guided audio tours.

There are two self-guided audio tours on offer:

  • Join historian and archivist Melinda Barrie as she takes you in the footsteps of Noel Counihan and the Brunswick free speech fight. From the theatres and soap-boxes; to riding atop street-cars and Counihan locking himself in a cage to escape arrest, Brunswick was a place of organising and dissent.
  • Join historian and author Iain McIntyre for Lock Out The Landlords, as he takes you on a tour of unemployed workers organising and anti-eviction resistance during the Depression – from urban communes to storming the Brunswick Town Hall and defending working-class families from eviction.

How to use the self-guided audio tours:

  1. Download the Echoes app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. You can also visit Brunswick Library during opening hours for assistance.
  2. A printed map and instructions are available for download on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine website.

These audio tours were created in partnership with 3CR Community Radio, Victorian History Week 2018 and the Australian Heritage Festival 2019.