Immigration and shipping: getting started

Drawing of migrants disembarking from a ship, ca. 1885

John Oxley Library,
State Library of Queensland,
neg: 62474

Download the PDF version of Immigration and shipping: getting started info guide [PDF 89 kb]

Immigrants travelled under various schemes.

Assisted passage

This is the source of the most comprehensive records but detail varies.

  • Government assistance could involve a subsidy, a small charge or was free.
  • Remittance or nominated passages were arranged by a friend or relative living in Australia, who paid a warrant for their passage to the Government.
  • Indentured immigrants were brought out as contract labourers for employers who paid the Government for their passage.

For more detail on conditions of passage in the various Colonies/States check:

  • the archival handbooks kept at the Family History reference desk on Level 3 of the State Library of Queensland at South Bank
  • Robin Haines’ Nineteenth century government assisted immigrants from the United Kingdom to Australia: schemes, regulations and arrivals, 1831-1900 (FAMHIS 325.94 1995).

Unassisted passage

There is little detail available on this. Usually immigrants paid full fare.

Where to find immigration records

The following indexes and lists will help you trace your ancestor’s arrival in Australia.

Clues as to where and when to look for an arrival may be found on death certificates.

Note: Immigrants were very mobile and names could be spelt variously.

Queensland  |  New South Wales  |  Victoria  |  Tasmania  |  South Australia  |  Western Australia

Queensland

State Records of NSW. 1848-1859 index: passengers arriving in Moreton Bay (Brisbane)
Note: The website provides an index only.

1848-1915 Index: assisted immigrants to Qld

  • For 1848-1859 use NSW index listed above
  • For 1860-1915 use the Qld indexes [print and microfilm]
  • See also Queensland State Archives internet indexes and digitised lists for immigration covering 1848 to 1912

The State Library holds the indexes and immigration lists [microfilm] on open access in the Micrographics Reading Room on Level 3 of the State Library of Queensland building at South Bank.

New South Wales

Lexigraphical index to all passengers to Sydney, N.S.W. 1828-1842 [microfilm] - MFL 929.3944 1985

Assisted (bounty) immigration New South Wales : 1828 to 1842 [CD-ROM] - QCFS 929.3944 2002

  • CD-ROM held at Family History reference desk, Micrographics Reading Room, level 3.

Assisted (Bounty) Immigrants 1828-42. Available to search from the FamilySearch website.

State Records of NSW. Assisted immigrants arriving in Sydney & Newcastle, 1844-96
Note: The website provides an index and some digitised lists.

  • Indexes and lists [microfilm] on open access.

1853-1900 Immigration deposit journals

  • Index [microfiche] and lists [microfilm] on open access. Index also available on CD-ROM at Family History reference desk, Micrographics Reading Room, level 3.

State Records of NSW. Index to the Unassisted Arrivals NSW 1842-1855

  • Index [microfiche] and lists [microfilm] on open access. Index is also available on CD-ROM at Family History reference desk, Micrographics Reading Room, level 3. 

Unassisted passenger and crew arrivals, 1854-1900. Available at Mariners and Ships in Australian waters
Note: The website provides transcribed passenger lists from the Shipping Inward lists of the Shipping Master's Office for most of the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s with links to scans of the original lists. Searchable by name, vessel and date of arrival. Lists for the 1880s and 1890s are to follow.

  • Unassisted lists to 1922 [microfilm] available on open access.

State Records of NSW. Index: miscellaneous assisted immigrants 1828-1843

  • The State Library of Queensland holds some of the records contained in this index.

Card index to unassisted passengers arriving NSW, 1826-1853 [microfilm] - MFL 929.3944 1999

  • Index and lists [microfilm] on open access.

ancestrylibrary.com, available onsite only, provides access to 1826-1922 Index to unassisted passengers and 1828-1896 Index to assisted passengers plus digitised lists.

Victoria

State Records of NSW. 1839-1851 Index: assisted immigrants, Port Phillip
Note: The website and ancestrylibrary.com provide an index only.

Public Records Office of Victoria. 1839-1871 Index: assisted immigrants from Britain
Note: The website and ancestrylibrary.com provide an index only.

Public Records Office of Victoria. 1852-1923 Index: unassisted inward passengers to Victoria
Note: The website and ancestrylibrary.com provide an index only.

  • Indexes and lists (microfiche) are available on open access in the Micrographics Reading Room on Level 3.

Public Records Office of Victoria. 1852-1915 Index: outward passengers to interstate, UK & foreign ports
Note: The website provides an index only. The Library does not hold any of the lists. 

Tasmania

Unassisted immigrants & coastal passengers, Hobart, Tasmania 1829-1865 [microfiche] - MFCB 929.3946

Index of assisted immigrants into Tasmania 1841-1889 [microfiche] - MFCB 929.3946

  • Indexes [microfiche] and lists [microfilm] on open access.

Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office. Index to Departures 1817 - 1867
Note: The Library does not hold any records referred to in this index.

Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office. Index to passengers & ships arrivals - 19th Century
Note: The Library may not hold records referred to in this index.

South Australia

Index to register of emigrant labourers applying for a free passage to South Australia, 1836-1841 [microfiche] - MFCB 929.39423

  • Index only on open access.

Bound for South Australia : passenger lists 1836-1851 / presented by Di Cummings [CD-ROM] - QCFS 929.39432 2005

  • Index and lists on CD-ROM held at Family History reference desk, Micrographics Reading Room, level 3. 

1847-1886 Official passenger lists, assisted passages from the U.K. [microfiche] - MFCB 929.39423

  • Index and lists on open access.
  • See also State Records of South Australia for online index. [Searching > Passenger List search]

1846-1887 Newspaper index: persons arriving in South Australia from overseas (including New Zealand) as recorded in the Adelaide Times, South Australian and South Australian Register [microfiche] - MFCB 929.39423

  • Index only on open access.

1888-1908 Alphabetical index to in-coming passenger list [microfiche] - MFCB 929.39423

  • Index only on open access.

1921-1924 Index to applications for assisted passage as agricultural labourers [microfiche] - MFCB 929.39423

  • Index only on open access.

1922-1924 Index to applications, assisted passages as farm labourers (Barwell Boys) [microfiche] - MFCB 929.39423

  • Index only on open access.

1921-1930, 1938-1939 Index to applications for assisted passage as a domestic helper [microfiche] - MFCB 929.39423

  • Index only on open access.  

Western Australia

Western Australian shipping and immigration [microfiche] - MFCB 929.3941 

1829-1890 Arrivals at Fremantle from overseas
1885-1908 Arrivals at Fremantle from interstate

1873-1925 Arrivals from overseas into Albany
1873-1924 Arrivals from interstate into Albany

  • Indexes only on open access.

Passenger arrivals in Western Australia, 1839-1890 [CD-ROM] - QCFS 929.3941 2003

1898-1925 Passenger arrivals in Western Australia, overseas and interstate [CD-ROM] - QCFS 929.3941 2001-

  • CD-ROM indexes held at Family History reference desk, Micrographics Reading Room, level 3.

1873-1903 Passenger and crew lists (Access to Ancestors reels 198-206, 211-213)

  • Lists (microfilm) on open access.  

See also ancestrylibrary.com for crew and passenger lists 1852-1930.

Other passenger and shipping lists

The Queensland State Archives website also holds other indexes that relate to immigration lists such as Immigrant Agent’s lists. These can be found on the Immigration indexes page.

National Archives Australia Record Search provides access to 20th Century indexes and lists for all Australian states. For 1921-1950 check Passenger Arrivals Index tab in 'Search' screen.

Emigrants from Hamburg to Australia

These records (FAMHIS 929.3943 1991-; QCFS 929.3943 2006), compiled by Eric and Rosemary Kopittke, list German and some Scandinavian immigrants for the years 1850-1879 at the point of departure for the various Australian Colonies/States. There are indexes for 1850-1859 and 1860-69 together with the lists on open access. For the 1870s use the index at the back of each book. These records are also available on CD-ROM (QCFS 929.3943 2006) at the Family History reference desk on Level 3.

Early shipping in Moreton Bay : June 1846-December 1859 and January 1860-December 1863 (both at FAMHIS 387.2.1998) are indexes to newspaper passenger lists and shipping news. They contain information extracted from the Moreton Bay Courier’s shipping reports, and list the names of unassisted passengers.

Passenger lists from the Melbourne Argus 1846-1868 (MFC 929.3945 1993) are indexed.

The Hodge Index (MFC 929.39423 1990) is an index to passenger lists published in South Australian newspapers for S.A. ports and New Zealand, 1837-1855.

Passenger lists – Victoria, Australia outwards to New Zealand, 1852-1880 (MFC 929.393 1996) and the later edition 1852-1923 (QCFS 929.393 2009), is an index to ships and passengers sailing between Victoria and New Zealand, 1852-1880.

Also available through ancestry.com (Library edition), onsite only, are passenger lists to the USA and UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960.

Check findmypast.co.uk, available onsite only at the State Library, for emigrants leaving the UK 1890-1960.

There are many other publications that provide information about shipping, seamen and maritime illustrations. See the leaflet Immigration and shipping: more than lists.

Check the One Search online catalogue for other passenger lists. 

Download the PDF version of Immigration and shipping: getting started info guide [PDF 89 kb]

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