May 19, 2015

Posted | 2 Comments

Week 38 Trade Union Records in 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2015

This personal genealogy blog challenge is to stimulate my own genealogy blogging efforts in 2014 – 2015 by focusing on a different kind of genealogical record each week. I wanted a challenge that reflected my own archival background as well as my own genealogy interests and there are probably lots of other records that I could have included. The challenge has an Australian focus but most of these records will be found just about anywhere in the genealogy world.

The 52 different types of genealogical records I finally decided on are listed in no particular order (each week will be a random surprise). Originally I planned to do this over 52 weeks in 2014 but soon realised that I have to factor in travel and illness so it is continuing into 2015 from Week 26.

Anyone is welcome to do all or part of this blogging challenge.  Let me know if you are participating and I will put a link to your post under each week’s challenge.

Links to Weeks 1-25 are here. Week 26 School Records Week 27 Census Records Week 28 Tombstones Week 29 Military Records Week 30 Postcards Week 31 Photographs Week 32 Asylum Records Week 33 Church Records Week 34 Maps Week 35 Sporting Records Week 36 Hospital Records Week 37 Military Histories and Unit War Diaries

Week 38 Trade Union Records

Jack and Kassie Gunderson ca 1975

Jack and Kassie Gunderson ca 1975

My grandfather was a waterside worker and a staunch unionist which is why I have been interested in unions and union records.  This is not an area that has attracted a lot of family history interest so there are few indexes or guides to finding union records.

The Noel Butlin Archives Centre at the University of Canberra collects, amongst other things, business and labour records from Australian companies, trade unions, industry bodies and professional organisations. Organisations whose records are held include the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Maritime Union of Australia and its predecessors the Waterside Workers Federation and the Seamen’s Union of Australia, the Australian Workers Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) and the National Farmers Federation to mention just a few.

The online catalogue can be searched and there are descriptive lists for series of records held. Other university archives such as the University of Melbourne Archives also collect similar types of business and trade union records. Look for any subject guides or fact sheets as well as searching the online catalogues. A useful website to discover what records are available and where is the Australian Trade Union Archives (ATUA) website. ATUA website May 2015

It is described as a gateway for researchers and scholars of labour history and has categories for:

  • finding people
  • trade unions
  • peak union bodies
  • employer bodies
  • government agencies

A search for waterside workers brings up a number of results and I can narrow that down by putting in Brisbane or Queensland where my grandfather worked. Once you identify any relevant unions or collections then you need to see if there are any surviving membership records or other types of records which might mention individual’s names.

Funeral notices in newspapers often provide a clue that someone was a trade union member. Once you know the name of the union you can look in ATUA to see if there are any records held somewhere. Trove has historical newspapers to 1954 online for free, titles and date ranges vary depending on where you are searching.

Often unions may have been involved in strikes and these can also be followed up in newspapers. Our ancestors occupations were a big part of their lives and I like to try and know as much as I can about how they spent so much of their time. If they were a trade union member, then it might be worth looking to see if you can find out more about their membership and the union they belonged to.



The Nile -Australia's Largest Online Bookstore





  1. http://bit.ly/2tradeu has indexes and images of Trade Union membership records for many countries, one of which is Australia. The Australian branches include Adelaide, Ballarat, Bathurst, Bendigo, Brisbane, Broken Hill, Charters Towers, Fremantle, Geelong, Hobart, Ipswich, Kalgoorlie, Leeton, Mackay, Melbourne, Mildura, Mount Morgan, Newcastle, Perth, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Sydney, Townsville, Wollongong and others.

  2. Shauna Hicks says:

    Thanks Judy for another great tip

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.