If you’re a family history researcher in Australia, chances are you’ve stumbled upon Trove.  Trove is a partnership between the National Library of Australia and hundreds of partner organisations, including State Library Victoria. The Trove digitised newspapers and gazettes collection is an invaluable resource for family historians, and allows for free, remote access to over 1000 historic Australian newspapers and gazettes, no matter where you are in the country.

Screenshot of the Trove Explore menu landing page
Browse digitised newspapers and gazettes via the Explore menu on Trove

Not only does Trove make the newspapers themselves accessible, but keyword searching makes hard-to-find information discoverable. Within Trove we can search for a name, event, place or business without knowing a specific date or headline.  

So what kinds of family history treasures can we unbox in Trove? 

Vital signs

One of the most common uses for newspapers in family history research is checking birth, death and marriage notices. Once, we would have to research the date of a birth, death, or marriage, and then search the dates immediately after across several newspaper titles until a notice was found – if one existed at all – or use a tool like the Ryerson Index. Trove makes this so much easier by making names searchable. Try searching for a name and then selecting Family Notices in the Category filter. Tip: Try different name variations e.g. Mary Clarke, Mrs Clarke, Mrs M Clarke…etc.

Family Notices, The Argus, March 1857
The Argus, 25 March 1857, p 4

To find marriage or engagement notices, try searching for both last names together. Here we’ve searched for “Carter Morphett”, and narrowed our results by the Family Notices category:

Engagement notices, Nepean times, 1950.
Nepean Times (Penrith), 9 Nov 1950, p 6

Why are family notices important? Not only do they tell you when something happened, but they might tell you about other family members too. Often, a death notice will list the spouse and all children of the deceased, and sometimes even their spouses and children. Others may list siblings, best friends, club associations, and nick-names.

Probate and legal notices

Look out for probate and legal notices for clues on how someone’s estate was managed after they died. You may find out more about the person’s family, where they were living, and what they did for work.

Legal notice regarding application for probate from the Argus, 1945
The Argus, 24 July 1945, p 15

Weddings, parties, anything

Historic newspapers often published pictures or articles about parties, weddings, or other social events, and sometimes included very detailed descriptions of the outfits that the attendees were wearing.

Picture and description of the Callaghan - Rolling wedding in Table Talk newspaper, 1933.
‘Weddings’, Table Talk, 11 May 1933, pp 44-45

In this extended marriage notice in Table Talk we get such a beautiful description of the ceremony that we can almost smell the flowers! Here we also learn the names of the wedding parties, including the bridesmaids and groomsmen; we learn a little more about the families of both the bride and groom – that the bride is the youngest daugher and the groom the youngest son, and that both of their fathers have already passed; we find out which church they were married in and who performed the ceremony; and we even learn that the reception was held in the Wangaratta Masonic Hall. Now we have so much more to research, plus a gorgeous picture of the bridal party to boot!

Special features

Was your ancestor a sportstar? A politician? A musician? Many prominant members of society may have had a feature article written about them in the paper. These kinds of articles might profile an ancestor, and reflect the opinions of the public of that person at the time. They might tell you more about where an ancestor was at a certain time in their lives. It might even contain a photo. Here we find out a little more about Dene Moore, a cricketer from Bendigo who captained the team against the English on a regional tour:

Article about Dene Moore, Bendigo cricketer, from the Sporting Globe, 1929.
Sporting Globe, 2 Feb 1929, pp5-6

Accidents were often reported on. Sometimes these could be minor scapes and near-misses, but often they could be tragic. Articles reporting on death or injury by misadventure would often mention the occupation of the person/s involved, or could say the names of spouses or next of kin.

Here we have an article from the Queanbeyan Age in the ACT regarding a fatal accident at a railway yard. Not only do we find out about this tragic accident, but we learn more about Henry’s family, where he was born, when he arrived in Australia, when he moved to Canberra, and even what he did for work. As a Victorian resident, it is unlikely I would have been able to discover this article if it did not appear on Trove.

Screenshot of article 'Man Fatally Crushed' from Queanbeyan Age, 1952
Queanbeyan Age, 19 Feb 1952, p 2


Reporting on crime has always been a key feature of any newspaper. Don’t be alarmed if you find that an ancestor was in trouble with the law – even extremely petty crimes like minor theft and drunkenness might end up in the paper on a slow news day! Your ancestor may not have been the criminal, either – these articles will generally name the victim as well. These reports will again generally mention the occupations of the people involved, and occasionally give background details relating to the crime. Here, the research subject was George Eric Orford, the victim of the theft. Although he was not the subject of the article, we now have a little more information about George’s living arrangements and the kinds of events that occurred during his life.

Newspaper article about a theft in The Age, 1924.
The Age, 5 Aug 1924, p 13

Crimes may also appear in the digitised gazettes also available on Trove.

Business and advertising

One of the brilliant things about Trove is that the entire newspapers have been digitised, ads and all! Advertisements might be interesting for historical researchers, but they are also very exciting for family historians researching an ancestor’s business pursuits. Small businesses often advertised in the local paper, and on Trove even the ads are often text-searchable.

Advertisement for a local plumber in Sunshine
Sunshine Advocate, 8 Sept 1950, p 2

Many of these advertisements would be largely undiscoverable if not for Trove newspapers.

Advertisement for Alex Pain & Co costume hire
Table Talk, 5 July 1928, p 20

In this advertisement for a costume hire business you can see the address of the business in Collins Street, and also that the business had been running for 58 years already in 1928.

You can also expect to find listings for business vacancies, legal notices about the dissolving of partnerships or the settling of estates, insolvency notices, and other articles discussing business activities.

Legal notice of a business partnership dissolving from the Argus, 1855.
The Argus, 3 Feb 1855, p 8

If you happened to have ancestors who were hotel licensees, you can expect to find license transfer notices and perhaps articles about fines in the paper too.

Detail from article about Collingwood Licensing Court from the Argus, 1883.
The Argus, 12 Dec 1883, p 5
Fine notice from The Herald for Sunday trading, 1874.
The Herald, 18 August 1874, p 3

Immigration and shipping

The Trove newspapers & gazettes collection can help you with research into your immigrant ancestors, too. Naturalisation announcements often appeared in the newspaper, and the shipping news can help fill in gaps in passenger records. After immigration became a commonwealth responsibility, certificates of naturalization were published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette.

Detail from Certificates of Naturalization, 2 March 1950, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette.
Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, no 12, 2 March 1950, p 483

People wishing to become naturalised were also required to publish their intention in the newspaper:

Public notice: intention to become naturalised.
Argus, 2 Oct 1943, p 14

Trove newspapers are also a great way to read the shipping news:

Shipping news, Hobart Mercury, 1898.
The Mercury (Hobart), 2 July 1898, p 3

Such was life

Of course, your ancestor may not appear in a newspaper on Trove. Still, looking at local newspapers from the time and place that your ancestor lived can help you build a picture of what day-to-day life was like for them. Trove’s Newspaper Browser lets you browse through papers by location and date. Find out which town had the football team to beat, who was the president of the local Country Women’s Association, read about the agricultural show, or just see the difference between how news was reported in mining communities vs farming communities. Have a virtual flick through and immerse yourself in the daily lives of your ancestors.

More to explore

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This article has 9 comments

  1. Another great blog! I would never have thought of half of those entry points

  2. Thank you for your great emails. I almost wish I lived in Victoria to take advantage of your wonderful library.

    • Thank you, Veronica! Hopefully you can come in and visit one day. Remember that Trove is free for everyone to use, you don’t need to be a Library member – it really is a fantastic resource!

  3. Many thanks for this advice. I love using Trove but had never thought about using it to explore more broadly the daily lives of our ancestors!

  4. I have recently read Trove is under threat ?

  5. Hi Caitlin,
    My Great Grandfather was Samuel Vincent Winter & I was wondering if you would have any information of when he was the Mayor of Collingwood.
    I had heard that in that position he opened the Swan Street Bridge, but I don’t know if this is true or not.
    Would you be able to steer me in the right direction to find out more information about him.
    Lynette Knight

    • Hi Lynette, how interesting! Your question might need a little bit more research to answer, so I have logged it with our Ask a Librarian service, and one of our librarians will get back to you shortly. All the best,

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