Tracing Your Family History




These notes and questions are provided as a resource to help those interested in their family history to make a start in researching it through interviews.  They refer to life in Australia and overseas–in this case, Lebanon.  You can use some or all of these questions as a means of recording your own life or that of another person on video or audio tape.  Some resources are provided for those who wish to search for documents on their family history.  

If you wish to lodge a copy of your family history with ALHSV we would be happy to receive it but this is entirely voluntary.  


Why trace your family history?

  • curiosity (who were my ancestors? how did they live? why and how did they come to Australia? etc)
  • sense of identity (who am I?)
  • sense of continuity (my family then, now and in the future?)
  • helps minority groups tell their stories as part of Australia’s story.

Who should do it?

  • if not you then who?
  • when someone starts, others  often join in
  • advantage of cooperative ventures.

When to start?

  • perhaps impetus of a family reunion or other family event such as birth, marriage or death
  • start now but a continuous and time-consuming process.

How to start?

  • assemble everything you can about those you are researching; begin with yourself and your generation and work backwards
  • collect family records such as letters, photographs, memoirs, and diaries
  • conduct interviews with relatives about their experiences and memories of what they have been told
  • you my wish to use one of the online Family Tree builders such as or Some of these also invite you to have your DNA tested to ascertain your racial background and mix. It is always interesting to compare these with other family members
  • document family events and anecdotes, noting the source of the information
  • conduct questionnaires, if interviews are not possible
  • obtain official certificates of births, deaths and marriages
  • join a genealogical society
  • visit libraries
  • search the internet for genealogy websites; start with ‘family history’ or ‘genealogy’
  • visit family history pages on Archives website (
  • visit Australian Lebanese Historical Society website (

What outcomes?

  • family tree
  • historical note
  • academic paper
  • family history book
  • novel
  • note important role of creative imagination.


Where and when were you born?

What were the names of your father and mother?

What were the names of any brothers and sisters?

Did you have other relatives living in the same village/town as you?

Who did you play with and what games did you play?

What work did your father and mother do and your brothers and sisters?

What school did you attend?

What are your earliest memories of school: teachers?   what you learned?    the school grounds?   friends?    punishment?    games?

Did you attend Church or Mosque regularly? What do you remember about it?

What jobs did you do for your parents when you were young?

Did you go to a secondary school?  What subjects do you remember enjoying most? Who were your friends? 

Do you remember attending any celebrations: Christenings?     Weddings?      Name days?    Birthdays?

Did you see films?  Or have any other entertainment?

What are some of your earliest memories in and around the house where you lived?

What can you remember about the village/town you were born in?  How many people?  Religions?  What work did the people do in the village?

Where is it located and what was your village/town known for?

What work did you do when you grew up in your homeland?

Did you marry in your homeland?

If so, to whom?   When?    Where?    How did you meet?

Did you have children there?   If so, who was born in your homeland?

When did you decide to come to Australia?   Why?   Who sponsored you?

How did you come to Australia?   Ship?    Plane?    With whom did you come?


When did you arrive in Australia?

Who did you come with? Own family? Relatives? Friends?

How did you come: by plane? ship? name of ship?

Did anybody greet you when you arrived in Australia?  If so, who?

Where did you first live? Describe the house/flat/room.

In what other houses/flats have you lived over the years?

What was your first job?  How did you get your first job?

Were there other people who spoke Arabic working there?

What was your next job or business? And so on?

Did you marry in Australia?  If so, to whom?

Did your wife/husband work also? If so, where? What were their next jobs?

Did you meet people from your homeland when you first came to Australia?

Who helped you a lot in your early years? And in what ways?

What did you find difficult in your early years?

What did you enjoy most in your early years?

Did you go to church or mosque in your early years?

Have you had the pleasure of your children marrying?  If so, who did they marry?

Do you have grandchildren? If so, how many?

Do you see much of your grandchildren?  If so, how often?

Do they speak Arabic?

Have you returned to your homeland for one or more visits?

If so, did the visits make you feel more Australian or more Lebanese?

What things do you not like about life in Australia?

What things do you most like about life in Australia?

Do you feel more Australian or more Lebanese?

What final message would you like to give to your children and grand children?


If you wish to search for documents related to your family two good places to start are:

Public Records Office of Victoria containing the Victorian Archives Centre
99 Shiel Street
North Melbourne Vic 3051

Tel:                  9348 5600
Fax:                 9348 5656
Toll free:          1800 657 452

Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria

© Dr Trevor Batrouney