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Prior to the European settlement in 1788, the Aborigines had an extensive language system with more than 500 different dialects. Almost three-quarters of the modern-day place names of Australia are of Aboriginal origin. The meaning of many of these place names have been lost because the Aboriginal dialects have died out.
Early settlers in Australia were mostly from the British Isles. However, a group of Germans settled in South Australia beginning in 1838. Other groups from Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world came to Australia over time, bringing with them their many different languages. Even so, most records used in Australian research are written in English. However, English has developed over time into Australian English, Pidgin English, and Aboriginal English. These variations, as well as the accents of immigrants from different countries, may affect the way names appear in records. For example, the names of ancestors from London may vary from record to record because of the Londoners’ tendency to drop the H from many words.
The following books and dictionaries can help you in your research. You can find these sources and similar material at many research libraries.
- Blake, Barry J. Australian Aboriginal Language. Sydney, N.S.W., Australia: Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1981. (Family History Library Call Number 499.15 B581a.) This book discusses the different dialects of the Aboriginal language.
- Ramson, W.S., Editor. The Australian National Dictionary: A Dictionary of Australianisms on Historical Principles. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press, 1988. (Family History Library Call Number 994 A5an.) This book defines Australian terms historically.
Additional language aids (including dictionaries of various dialects and time periods) are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under: