The following are from Queensland Australia records.

Margaret married James in 1886. They had 3 children between 1888 and 1895.

From 1897 to 1907 Margaret registered 4 more children. There was no father recorded. In 1930, Francis completed 4 amendment to birth forms, listing himself as father to the 4 children.

There are no notes on the birth form or registry entry prior to 1930 with a mention of Francis or his surname.

I have talked to one of the researchers at Queensland Birth Deaths and Marriages. No field was available for preferred surname of child on the birth forms for the period concerned. I was advised if a father was recorded, the children would have his surname. If no father was recorded, the children would have been Margaret's married surname.

I have not located any student record for the children. Electoral rolls show the children using Francis's surname from their respective first available roll.

James died in 1935 and Margaret and Francis married later in 1935.

What records might I be able to pursue to find if the children used Francis's surname from birth or began using it later.

  • Are there residential clues? Was Margaret living with James all those years, or was she, and some or all of the children, with Francis?
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 12:20
  • I have looked at both Trove and National Archives. I have also searched in NSW as that is where Margaret and Francis married in 1935.
    – Darren
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 21:36
  • Paternity is not the question here. Francis is certainly the father. After digitising the records, and the update of record in 1930, QLD BDM are unsure what name would have been used. They assume Margaret's married name.
    – Darren
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 21:48
  • I understand what you are asking, but the question as written in the title is not likely to attract good answers for the site. If I were to answer the question very literally my answer would be "any records which list a person by name". But you've also tagged the question as research-methods, and that's more likely to get a decent answer. Can we rework this question a little to make it more answerable? For the title, think of a way of phrasing it that is likely to turn up in a Google search. I also think shorter titles are better because they're more sharable (see discussion on Meta).
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 21:51
  • Census details are not available and electoral rolls do not have any of the adults before the first child appeared on them.
    – Darren
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 21:51

1 Answer 1


Related questions:

To make a research plan for this family, I would start by making a list of the source records you have found so far. Make a timeline of the events, using paper, a spreadsheet, a table, index cards -- whatever tool suits your workflow.

For each record type you already have, review each one to make sure you understand what agency created the record, what purpose the record was created, and so on.

After you have done your review, do general research on Australian law. What is required now for contemporary changes of name? When did those laws come into being? Can you follow the breadcrumbs from what is found in the current statutes back to the period you are researching?

To generate a list of possible records to search in --

  • Look for books and research guides on doing research in Australia that might give you clues about record groups that you might have missed.
  • Consult guides such as Mark D. Herber's Ancestral Trails in case there might be records in Great Britain about your people as well as in Australia
  • Look for research strategies in the FamilySearch Wiki -- start with the upper-level article on Australia

When looking for records:

  • Don't restrict yourself to looking for records on the standard 'big-box' websites devoted to genealogy. Look for finding aids first.
  • Use guides like the Record Finder in the FamilySearch Wiki
  • Check Archives at all levels -- National, State, and Local
  • Check Libraries at all levels -- National, State, and Local for both finding aids and special collections / manuscript collections (and what in the USA are called 'vertical files' -- collections of loose items of interest)
  • Look for holdings at genealogical societies and historical societies at all levels -- National, State, and Local
  • When searching big websites like Ancestry, Findmypast, MyHeritage, RootsWeb, etc. consult all levels of jurisdictions that might have records
  • If you don't already know how, learn how to do a place search in the FamilySearch catalog
  • Search using keyword searches as well as using search boxes specifically dedicated to names
  • Don't neglect newspaper research -- you have Trove Australia which is a superb resource
  • Search in genealogical publications for other researchers who have documented similar kinds of name changes. Look carefully at their source citations and bibliography. What sources were they able to find? How did they correlate their data?
  • Search for bloggers, magazine articles and books where people are studying the same locality to see if you can pick up clues.

To solve this problem, you'll have to step back from the search for a list of individual records you can look through and consider the big picture -- what was required when people changed their names. There may not have been a legal requirement for a notice when people changed their names -- or if there were, the notice may be buried in a local court minute book, or the legal notices in a local newspaper.

I don't know the history of adoption law in Australia and the UK. In the USA, there was a period during the 20th century where many states had laws making adoption a 'closed' process. Adoptees from closed states usually do not have access to their original birth records, or their legal papers, unless the adoptive parents keep their copy and pass it on in the family papers. A replacement birth certificate or birth registration is issued with the child's new name, showing the names of the adoptive parents as the parents. In some localities, the indexes to the court cases were redacted before the records were microfilmed by FamilySearch, so you can't trace the child's birth name that way.

In genealogy there are no shortcuts. The only way to determine what name a person is using at any given time is to collect whatever documents you can that show the person's name. The best we can do is collect name variants, search for them all, and pay careful attention to extended family and the FAN Club (friends, associates, neighbors) to discover them any way we can.

  • 2
    In UK law, you can call yourself what you like, with no need for any legal documents. It just happens to be easier if they can be seen. Even if legal documents exist in the UK, they might never have gone further than the solicitor's office. The reason I'm saying this is that it would seem highly likely that initial practice in Australia would be inspired by the UK. Similarly, I'd be wary in the UK of anyone saying that the children would have these names in these situations. There were customary choices, but not mandatory ones. As Jan says, you need to understand the legal situation there.
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 18:51
  • @Jan Murphy - "what was required when people changed their names. There may not have been a legal requirement for a notice when people changed their names -- or if there were, the notice may be buried in a local court minute book, or the legal notices in a local newspaper." There was no requirement in Queensland to lodge a name change, either with with the government or notice in the paper. There is still no actual legal requirement (per QLD BDM researcher), but proof of name change is needed to open bank accounts, apply for passport etc. This requires lodgement with the QLD government.
    – Darren
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 11:00

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