The first Europeans began exploration of the Australian continent in the 17th century. Dutch explorer Willem Janszoom landed in the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1606 and mapped some of the coastline. Later on Abel Tasman in 1642 reached Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) and in 1644 with three ships (Limmen, Zeemeeuw & Braek) he mapped the north coast of Australia. No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James Cook took possession in the name of Great Britain.
Australia was first settled by Europeans in 1788 with the arrival (at Botany Bay on the south-east coast) of three English ships with more than 1000 convicts and military personnel, known today as the 'First Fleeters. The site was found to be unsuitable so a few days later the colony moved to Port Jackson at Sydney Cove. The second fleet arrived in 1790 and saved the colony from starvation. The third fleet arrived in 1791 and included the first Irish transportees. The first free settler immigrants arrived in 1793. The expanding colony became known as New South Wales.
Six colonies were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries; they federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The new country took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. In recent decades, Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy.
Getting Started with Australia research
To get started with Australia research, it is helpful to know where your family or ancestors lived in Australia and to know when they died. Australian state civil death certificates give a great deal of valuable information which will help you in your research. Click on a state name or on the map below to learn about research in an Australian state or territory.
The States and Territories of Australia include:
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