Our History

Since 1964 Family History ACT (FHACT) has proudly supported family history across the ACT region and beyond.  Known then as the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra (HAGSOC), it was founded on Tuesday 20 October 1964 at an inaugural meeting, convened by Dr Niel Gunson, at the Coombes Building at the Australian National University – 14 prospective members met to form the nucleus of a group, progressively growing to a strong community of family historians. In 2019 HAGSOC started its transition to a new business name, FHACT, and today it remains a strong vibrant organisation, carrying on the traditions of its early founders.

From small beginnings a library of resources was established, which expanded rapidly, and it wasn’t long before we outgrew our shared accommodation with the Canberra and District Historical Society at the Griffin Centre.  A growing need for microfiche readers, a photocopier, more books and eventually computers saw the shift of premises to Narrabundah, Hughes and ultimately to our present premises at the Cook Community Hub.

The organisation grew by leaps and bounds, and so did our endeavours.  The Ancestral Searcher, a quarterly journal affectionately known as TAS, has been the mainstay of our community outreach since its first publication in 1976.  Special Interest and User Group meetings were introduced in 1984 as a forum for member discussions and to help members in their family history research efforts.   A series of introductory learning programs during the 1980s grew to become integrated into our successful publication Family History for Beginners and Beyond and the monumental inscription publications collected from Canberra and regional cemeteries are a valued family history resource.  All these publications can be purchased from our Online Store.

FHACT is committed to sharing information as both a service to members and to outside like-minded groups.  Members actively participate in workshops to regional NSW towns, conferences, congresses and have given many community talks about the ever popular past-time of family history research. We received the National Australia Bank community link award in 1998 (awarded to HAGSOC) for our community education program for regional and rural workshops – known to our members as the Roadshows. 

HACT has maintained excellent relationships with other family history organisations both in Australia and across the world and locally has forged close links with the National Archives of Australia, the National Library of Australia and the ACT Heritage Library.

To coincide with our 50th birthday anniversary in 2014, We are Family was published, a history based on, and told by, members through their experiences.

FHACT members come from all walks of life, are younger and older, and join in the many activities that the organisation has undertaken over the years.  Having fun is mandatory and members enjoy getting out and about to share their family history knowledge and experience – visit The Way we Were to see photographs of some of our exploits and hear short oral histories from members, reminiscing about the history of FHACT, and the wonderful friendships made.

Today, FHACT continues to be a vibrant organisation that is meeting a changing environment for family history research.


Left to Right. Grahame Thom, Niel Gunson, June Penny, Bill Marsh, Michael D’Arcy reliving old memories of past meetings at the Coombs Building, Australian National University, October 1989