Place is central to your research into your Aboriginal family’s history. Knowing where your ancestors lived helps you to locate records about them, but it also helps you understand what their lives were like. For example, you can track how they moved throughout their life – whether they stayed close to where they were born, or whether they moved long distances.

Contemporary maps, like a printed road map or Google Maps online, show things how they are today. They’re a good place to start to work out where exactly it was that your ancestors lived.

Historical maps show places as they were at some time in the past. If possible you should try to find one from the period you are researching.

Historical maps are particularly helpful if your ancestors lived on a rural property or a small or remote place that may not exist today. It can be hard to locate such places on contemporary maps, but if you know the general area you might be able to find them on a historical map. Historical maps can also help when the spelling of a place name that has changed.

Probably one of the best places to search for maps or to find out a map that includes the place you are interested in is Trove: Maps

Historical maps are held in many library collections around Australia. A growing number are digitised and available to view online, while others you will need to view in the library itself. Trove will help you to find many of these or you can also do searches in State/Territory library catalogues. You might also try your local library or historical society.

Maps of Aboriginal Australia

Maps that illustrate the area covered by different Indigenous language groups might also be helpful in your research. Some of these maps show Indigenous language group boundaries as they existed when Europeans first colonised Australia. Other maps represent current distributions of language use.

Online guides to maps


New South Wales


  • State Library of Queensland: Maps

South Australia

  • State Library of South Australia: Mapping



Western Australia

  • State Records Office of Western Australia: Maps online
Last reviewed: 6 Jul 2020