Guide to Ancestry Library Edition

AncestryAncestry Library Edition is a huge subscription database, similar to the popular, which you can use to trace your ancestors. It consists of thousands of smaller databases, some of which are listed below. It is available on all PCs within the State Library building as well as in most public libraries in Western Australia. Please note that you will not be able to access it from home.

Access Ancestry Library Edition

Popular databases available on Ancestry Library Edition include:

Orient Line B78c
Ancestry includes thousands of passenger lists
[The Orient Line to Australia; State Library
of Western Australia; Ship Index, B78c]
  • Australian electoral rolls 1856-1980
  • WA passenger lists, 1852-1930
  • New South Wales census, 1828 and 1841
  • New South Wales passenger lists, 1826-1922
  • Australian convict index, 1788-1868
  • UK census, 1841-1911
  • UK birth, marriage & death indexes, 1837-2005
  • UK National Probate Calendar, 1861-1941
  • British Army WW1 pension records
  • British phone books, 1880-1984
  • UK outgoing passenger lists, 1890-1960
  • UK incoming passenger lists, 1878-1960
  • London parish records
  • New Zealand electoral rolls, 1853-1981
  • US census, 1790-1040
  • Canada census, 1851-1911

How do I access Ancestry?

Ancestry is now licensed to be available in public libraries throughout Western Australia. Please check availability at your local public library.
To access Ancestry within the State Library building, click on the link above.

What content will I find?

Examples of the types of records available include birth, marriage & death records, census records, immigration records, directories, convict records, land records and more. Using these records you may be able to discover:

  • when and where someone was born, married or died
  • what they did for a living
  • where and with whom they were living at a particular time
  • when they travelled to a particular place and on what ship

How to search Ancestry

We recommend doing focused searches

  • in one specific database
  • across all databases in a particular state, county or country

To do these types of searches select the Search tab from the home page. Scroll down to Explore by Location and select the country or region of interest. The only exception to this search method is for some of the top databases, such as the UK census collection, which can be accessed direct from the link on the home page.

Alternatively, you can search direct from the home page but we would recommend using only the Advanced Search form.

If you're not sure which Ancestry databases are available, click on all databases at the bottom of the screen on the home page. Alternatively, you can click on Card Catalog from the Search page. This will give you the option to search for keywords appearing in databases e.g. typing convict will retrieve a list of all the databases relating to convicts.

Important notes

  • Use the Match all terms exactly option with caution. As its name suggests, records will only be retrieved where all data matches exactly. If you do use this type of search, use fairly broad search criteria
  • Use the option to narrow your search with caution as it does not operate within your existing results list
  • There are two ways of searching within Ancestry. Which you choose is a matter of personal preference. You can either
    • Do a broad search and then narrow it if you get too many results or
    • Do a narrow search and broaden it out if it is not successful

Search tips

  • Try searching under different spellings. Your ancestor may have spelled their name differently on different occasions or the record taker may have recorded it differently
  • Try spelling the name phonetically rather than correctly
  • Try searching for other members of the family with a more unusual first name e.g. Abel rather than John
  • Try nicknames, diminutives etc. e.g. Meg for Margaret, Jack for John. Remember also that first names were commonly abbreviated e.g. Henry (Hy), George (Geo), John (Jno)
  • Try the surname and initial only
  • Try reversing the first and last names or leaving out a middle name
  • Try writing down the name to see how letters could be mistaken for other letters e.g. T and J
  • Study the handwriting on the page to see how known letters are formed
  • You can conduct a census search without putting in their surname at all. Try searching by first name and date and place of birth. This works especially well with unusual first names
  • Try using wildcards (see below)
  • Try broadening your search geographically
  • Search under the name of the village rather than the name and go through the whole area looking for likely entries


* use an asterisk to replace 0 to 5 characters. There must be at least 3 characters before the asterisk
e.g. john* will retrieve results for John, Johns, Johnson, Johnston etc.

? use a question mark to replace one character only
This can be useful if you think the first letter of a surname may have been mistranscribed
e.g. ?all will retrieve results for Ball, Hall, Wall etc.

Search results

Results are displayed in Ancestry with the most relevant results at the top of the list. You can use the drop-down box at the bottom of the page to alter the number of results shown per page if required.

  • Hover over the link for a brief transcription of the original record. Select the link for a full transcription and citation. Although you should always view the original record, where available, it can be useful to see how someone else has interpreted information which is difficult to read.
  • View Image - this link takes you to the scan of the original document.

Printing census pages from Ancestry

Use these instructions to get the best results when printing and saving census images from Ancestry.

  • Firstly, make sure that your photocopy card has been charged
  • Click on View Image from list of results
  • Click on the Print icon
  • Choose Image-only or Image & source print
  • Wait for the image to download
  • If the Print pop-up box appears, Cancel it
  • Select File - Print Preview
  • Select Page Setup and make sure Landscape is selected
  • Click on the Margins & Header/Footer tab and reduce all margins to 0.5, then click OK
  • Go to the print station and swipe your photocopy card to access the print list

NB: The image may take several minutes to download to the printer.

Saving census page images from Ancestry

  • Click on View Image from list of results
  • Insert USB drive
  • Click on the orange Save icon at the top right of the screen
  • Wait for the image to download
  • Use the drop-down box to select your USB drive and give your file a suitable name
  • Remember to remove your USB drive


Please note that you can only ever email a total of five records to any one email address.

Need to know more?

The official guide to is a comprehensive guide to using this database.

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