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Old Age Pensions and Genealogy

Most Old Age Pension applicants 1908-1909 who lived in Queensland were born overseas. This page explains who was eligible for a pension, and the implications for genealogy and family history research, and it leads to lists of 9,200 applicants' names. See also (below) 'Other pension records' (before and after 1908-1909) and 'Interstate records'.

The Australian Commonwealth Government began introducing various pensions from about 1908, but for a brief period during 1908-1909, old age pensions were the responsibility of the Queensland State Government. Registers of applicants, and a few lesser sources, have survived and have been indexed. These registers include information about people who received the pension, plus hundreds of others whose applications were rejected. Although only those aged at least sixty-five (that is, born before about 1843-1844) were actually eligible, applications were received from many who were under the specified age.

Eligibility for the Old Age Pension 1908-1909

The Old Age Pensions Act of 1908 occupied twelve pages of the Queensland Government Gazette. The main criteria for eligibility are summarised as follows:

  • currently resident in Queensland, and aged at least 65 years
  • resident in Queensland for a total of at least 20 years (not necessarily continuously, except for the 5 years immediately preceding the application)
  • unable to maintain himself / herself
  • of good moral character, having led a temperate and reputable life for the previous 5 years
  • net capital value of property not exceeding 260 pounds
  • has not, without just cause, deserted his / her spouse, or his / her children aged under 14 years, for a period of a year or more, within the preceding 5 years. (A man could also have his application rejected if he had failed to support his family)
  • if not a British subject, must have been naturalised for at least 6 months
  • Chinese and other Asiatics were not eligible for the pension under any circumstances, even if they were naturalised or British subjects
  • Aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, New Zealand or the Pacific Islands were not eligible

An application would be rejected if it failed to fulfil any of these criteria. Most rejections were on the basis of age or period of residence, but other reasons for rejection provide unique information about the applicant and his/her character and habits.

The maximum pension granted was 26 pounds per year (usually paid as 10 shillings per week). This was reduced if the applicant's annual income was more than 26 pounds, or if the total value of his/her property exceeded 260 pounds.

Implications for genealogical research

After a person lodged an application, the local police investigated the claim. No pension was granted unless statements made in the application were corroborated by documentary or oral evidence, so old age pension registers probably contain relatively reliable information.

In 1908-1909 electoral enrolment was not compulsory in Queensland, and old age pension registers give the place of residence of many people who were not on electoral rolls.


I indexed four (4) record series with over 9,200 names. For most applicants, the original records show:

  • date claim was registered
  • surname and given names
  • country (or Australian State) of birth - with the exception of the first 500 applications, on which this is not recorded
  • alleged age
  • total number of years in Queensland
  • town or suburb of current residence
  • whether the application was approved or rejected
  • if approved, the amount of pension payable, date payment commenced, and town where paid
  • if rejected, the reason for rejection
  • occasionally other remarks (e.g. 'sent to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum').

About 300 entries give extra details (eg, marital status, exact birthdate, spouse's name, full address). There are also letters to, or about, some pensioners.

A more detailed explanation of the sources is my book Tips for Queensland Research, described on my Publications page.

SEARCH the names in my Old Age Pensions Index 1908-1909

Other pension records (before, during and after 1908-1909)

For the years before 1908, use the following sources (which I can search as part of my professional research service):

  • Home Office: alphabetical register of applications for Charitable Relief, 1899-1904. Gives date and town.
  • Home Office: index to register of persons to whom Outdoor Relief is payable, Jan-May 1905. May give age, district, how long in Queensland, and remarks re death date, movement to another district, etc.

Pension records after mid-1909 are held by the National Archives of Australia, to whom enquiries should be directed; but two Queensland sources may give some information:

Interstate records

The Macquarie Book of Events says that New South Wales introduced the first old age pensions in 1900, and similar legislation was passed in Victoria around the same time. Enquiries should be directed to archival institutions in those States.

Police Department correspondence 1908-1952 refers to some residents of other States. See also the other suggestions below.


Other Suggestions

Other Australian pension records (before, during and after 1908-1909).

Police Department correspondence re old age pensions and invalid pensions 1908-1952.

In Specialist Indexes in Australia: a genealogist's guide, see

To find other overseas pension records, search for the word pension in Findmypast's worldwide list.

My other genealogy sites have additional advice and names.

Search this site  (do NOT use apostrophes; read search results page carefully)

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